Working For The Man Every Night And Day
We're working longer than ever and working even when we're "off."
Zoë Pollock points us to two articles bemoaning the plight of the white collar worker.
Jeanette Mulvey at LiveScience (“Summer’s Here, Let the ‘Workations’ Begin”):
First there was the “staycation,” now it’s the “workation.” Americans, it seems, can’t take a real vacation anymore.
The majority of Americans expect to stay connected to their office during their summer vacation, according to Regus, a company that provides office spaces, office furniture and communications tools.
How Americans will work while on vacation varies, but three-quarters say they will stay connected in some way.
Sixty-six percent of the 5,000 people surveyed said they will check and respond to email during their time off and 29 percent expect they may have to attend meetings virtually while on vacation.
“Modern work pressures mean that more and more of us work during our vacations,” said Guillermo Rotman, CEO of Regus. “The important thing is to minimize the inconvenience by working as efficiently as we can. Rather than struggle through three stressful and unproductive hours trying to work by the poolside, you could do the same amount of work more efficiently in a single hour at a business center, with free Wi-Fi, secure high-speed broadband and professional administrative support. You then have two hours free to relax properly.”
The phenomenon of working on vacation is an extension of Americans’ larger issue of Americans struggling to achieve work-life balance, the survey found. Nearly six out of ten respondents (58 percent) say they take work home more than three times a week.
She then goes on to give other advice for minimizing the distractions, while recognizing that they’re with us to stay.
Business Insider‘s Patricia Laya (“Americans Now Think A 40-Hour Work Week Is ‘Part Time’“) adds more:
The financial reward for working longer hours has increased substantially in the past 30 years, especially for professional men.
On the other hand, while 37 percent of professional men work 50 hours a week or more, the number of middle- and low-income workers working 50 or more hours a week since 2006 has barely changed or lowered, signaling a declining job market and underemployment.
There’s even a handy chart:
Let’s leave aside methodological questions and assume for the sake of argument that these figure are accurate. Certainly, it comports with my experience. I routinely respond to emails and do other work-related activities on weekends, holidays, vacation, and even while in the hospital with sick parents or my wife and newborn babies. While occasionally annoying, the fact of the matter is that a few minutes of my time can really help keep the people who are at work–or, my boss, who never seems to not be at work–able to get things done. The office would really grind to a halt if certain key personnel–and I’m one of them–were unreachable for days or even weeks on end.
It’s doubtless true that “work-life balance” has changed as more people are employed in knowledge industries and fewer are punching a clock at the factory. But, lest we feel too sorry for ourselves, let’s also remember that with the electronic leash comes a certain amount of freedom.
First, most of us are able to spend less time in the office than we normally would because we can be reached. The notion that everyone has to be at their desk until after the boss leaves is, thankfully, gone in many if not most workplaces.
Second, while our family time is less undivided than it once was–two decades ago, most of us were simply unreachable unless we were at home or at the office–employers tend to be much more flexible than they once were. This morning, for example, I came in to work a bit late because our newborn had her 2-week checkup and mom and I both went. I doubt my dad went to any of my checkups; it would have been bizarre for him to miss work for it. Not anymore.
Third, while our personal time is less our own than it was once upon a time, our work time is less our bosses than it used to be. Workers on a factory schedule are producing for the boss the entire time they’re on the clock, minus specified lunch and bathroom breaks. Those of us who work in offices with Internet access–which is to say, most of the people affected by the increasing demand on our time–often have the luxury of taking care of personal business or taking “mental health breaks” at our leisure. So, while the number of “work” hours is expanding, it’s not a slam dunk that the amount of work is increasing along with it.
Indeed, chances are you’re reading this at the office.