Thursday, February 7, 2013

Overtime Silliness

A police officer in Chicago is suing for overtime that he put in for answering emails while off-duty. While this case has been dismissed as 'silliness' by a former mayor of Chicago, this attitude is just indicative of the 24-hour work culture that North Americans are living every day- and not getting paid for.

There are many factors in this particular case that will have to be reviewed to determine its' success or not, but regardless of the outcome, people should be thinking about the amount of time they're putting into work and never getting back. Despite the argument that Blackberry-strapped employees can choose to turn off their machines when they leave the office, the truth of the matter is that many employers expect their employees to be available around the clock- and this expectation is the problem.

Every workplace is supposedly committed to the idea of 'worklife balance'. Despite this PR motto, most workers live the reality of the unspoken demands of their office. The pressure is more or less constant and employees who don't respond after hours are often overlooked for promotions or perceived as less reliable workers than their email happy counterparts. The virtual desktop also brings it unspoken pressures with it to keep producing, while travelling, sick, or even, at times, on vacation.

Before people dismiss this item as silliness or anti-capitalist, people should remember that it was not that long ago when workers' demands for weekends was also considered 'silliness'. North Americans have seen a steady increase of heart attacks, cancer rates and the cost of living, all part of a perfect storm that predicts early death, mostly caused by work pressures, poor diets and inordinate amounts of time sitting. This is not a hard puzzle to put together.

The constant demands of work and home life have many of us feeling like hamsters caught in a wheel- running and getting no further ahead. We should start re-claiming our time and our quality of life. Our relationships, our private time, our health- these are the 'silly' things that we are trying to protect and preserve. Our jobs are not worth everything.

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