toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

December 17, 2006

surviving the work late culture

Jane is a single working mother who is experiencing a great deal of stress and anguish being expected to work after hours, but she survives with the help of a loving and dedicated mom.

"I don’t get paid for this extra work," says Jane. "Everybody works back late without extra pay where I work - and there is no special consideration for working mothers like me."

The working late culture is a problem that particularly affects working mothers, but just about anyone with a life outside of work is upset by the increasing trend among employers to hire less staff and make them work back late, without extra pay, in order to do the work of two people.

"I'm 37 and old enough to remember a 9-5 working day, when offices closed at 5pm and people had real lives," sighs Jane.

"I'm really grappling with this problem," sighs Jane. "I will never accept that work was ever meant to consume more than 8 hours of our day."

"I was told that if working mothers want to work then they should get it very clear from the start that working late is normal these days and if you don’t become a workaholic then you won’t have a job."

"Terms of employment might state 9 to 5", says Jane, "but if you walk out the door at 5pm you will probably be the only person doing so as well as the first person on the chopping block when the company restructures."

As Groucho Marx quipped: "No man goes before his time - unless the boss leaves early."

Jane adds that few bosses leave early these days!

"Some workplaces do allow flexible working hours - with a core period between which one must be present - but generally companies do not take into account either our personal needs or our time clocks," says Jane.

"Businesses, of course, are not in business to suit the personal needs and time-clocks of staff and there is plenty of evidence to support the view that expecting staff to conform to the working late culture is an exercise of power that has very little to do with productivity."

"If businesses really wanted to prosper," says Jane, "then they might consider the benefits of giving their staff adequate time off to relax and recharge their batteries."

"There are very few people who can work for more than an 8-hour day without making mistakes and becoming irritable and unproductive," says Jane.

"You would have to be doing something you really loved - and would do for free - in order to maintain that length of productivity without fatigue."

Jane’s work, like most people’s, is not something she loves and would do for free.

"Fatigue is a real problem for me," says Jane, "but luckily I have a mother who lives close and takes care of my children while I am at work. Without her support I would not be able to survive. She is far more valuable to me than a husband would be because she doesn't work and she puts my interests before her own. How many men would do that?"

"I don’t have to worry about keeping a babysitter waiting - but nevertheless my children do suffer from being picked up at their grandmother’s house at all hours of the night - and my mother isn’t too happy about the way I am spending so much time at work."

"Sure, I’m turning into a workaholic and becoming prone to heart disease," says Jane, "but what else can I do? I need this job and I've got to do whatever it takes to survive in it."

Jane says that it is ironic that workers worldwide in the 19th and 20th centuries fought a long and hard battle to earn the right to an 8-hour day, and now it is almost heretic to demand such a right.

"I've considered doing part-time work - or even changing my occupation to one with hours and conditions that suit my needs - but I really need the money of a full-time job."

"There are, of course, still lots of employers out there who are sympathetic to the personal needs of staff," says Jane, "but expecting to leave at 5pm in any workplace is just not done these days - no matter what the work contract says - so I'm not risking changing my job."

"There are plenty of people out there desperate for work," says Jane, "and even if an employer is sympathetic to the personal needs of staff, it is the people who do not expect to leave early who will get the perks and promotions, not those who leave early."

"Very few people are indispensable these days," sighs Jane. "And I believe that workaholism has more to do with fear of losing out on perks and promotions - and jobs - than some innate brain wiring problem. It's a disease that's acquired by the working late culture."

"When more and more employers are requiring longer working hours, shorter breaks and keeping workers in a state of fear - not knowing whether their jobs are going to last out the month let alone the year - is it any wonder that so many of us are developing workaholic tendencies?"

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