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Overwork… July 20, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

A while ago the Guardian asked readers a range of questions on the following:

Up to three in five parents often work late and end up missing their children’s bedtime, according to a charity’s survey. The charity Working Families’ survey of 2,700 adults revealed parents have been finding it difficult to strike a balance between work and home.


To mark the longest day of the year, the charity is campaigning for parents to take part in Go Home on Time Day, in order to highlight “that going home on time should be the norm, not the exception”.

The answers are not exactly cheering:

Staff reductions with increased workloads make for a permanent sense of job insecurity. As the primary source of family income, covering all expenses, including mortgage and school fees, I feel the pressure to ensure I can continue to support them. I seldom work less than 50 hours a week.


I think a lot of architects are still recovering from the last recession, which left many of us unemployed or out of the industry for several years. So when the whole office is still there at 7pm it is difficult to be the only one leaving on time each day. It has a terrible impact on us. I have a young son and he will only go to bed for me. If I am home late he goes to bed late and is exhausted and upset. My current office is relatively flexible if I come in early but it is limited. The only reason I stay late is because being unemployed again is worse than the stress of working late and having a tired baby.


There is more work to do than the staff can deliver. I know that to keep my manager’s salary I need to continue to deliver the same results so I end up working until 7 or 8pm. I used to take work home to do after the family dinner when the kids are in bed, but as I get older I find it harder to motivate myself back to work once I’ve switched off. Hence I stay later.

I find this very depressing. Presenteeism is a curse. I’ve been in employments where what you do is less important than seeming to be around all the time. And even where I am now which has flexible working hours and the ability to start earlier to finish earlier or start later to finish later there’s the odd comment – because I come in just after 8 am and when I’m leaving which would be consequently earlier than some others – about ‘half-days’ and so on. Granted the comments are infrequent and meant as jokes but…

And let’s be clear – it’s not just workers with children – indeed I have a bit of a problem with this issue being couched in such terms (not least because I had a creature late enough in life and all that is stated here holds true for the years before the creature). It’s workers who don’t have children, or with adult children or whatever. All are equally effected by this dynamic even if it doesn’t seem like it to a cursory analysis. It impinges on lives in ways that are deeply detrimental. And even if sometimes it seems to be only a minor inconvenience or even not a problem at all – where for example there are no significant reasons to be home at a reasonable hour – that too is problematic since it predicates against building up involvement in non-work activities or establishing or sustaining friendships and old or new social connections.

And so often it is about misperception of what a workplace should be. Simply because we spend much of our waking lives in work doesn’t mean that it should be the be all and end all. I work to live, not vice versa. It’s a bonus if where I work and what I do is interesting and engaging.

I’ve mentioned before going to an interview in the 1990s where when they were outlining the job they mentioned that the hours were like those of ‘a bomber crew flying through the night while the infantry have more normal hours’. I couldn’t see the appeal to be honest. Wasn’t quite sure what they were offering – it surely wasn’t money – that would make me, or anyone, want to jump across to them.

It also feeds into other issues. I don’t mind the odd social function in relation to work, but I’m not gone on orienting my social life towards my workplace. Never have been. It’s oddly like family – you can’t choose your family and in many ways you can’t choose who you work with. But a sort of ‘compulsory’ or forced non-work interaction I find hard going. I’m not talking about a cuppa during the week or whatever. That is fine, though presenteeism eats into that too.

Part of the problem is that workplaces are, by dint of necessity, filled with people at different points in their lives or very different outlooks on life. That’s self-evident, but it also has significant ramifications. For the person in their twenties the range of responsibilities may be different to a person in their forties and so on. If you’re in your fifties and have, as many of us do, older relatives who require care in the home or regular visits if not in the home, or anything of that nature, that can have similar impacts.


1. EWI - July 20, 2017

Public sector. It’s (CPII hours) a curse which badly eats into family time for young children, exactly as said here.


2. Success Inspirers' World - July 20, 2017

Indeed! Hard life makes it hard and pushes parents to overwork .


3. sonofstan - July 20, 2017

Agree with all of that; the coming in early and getting comments when you leave before 5; because I don’t have dependent children, I can be up and out early enough and I’m useless late in the day anyway. But also the assumption that if you don’t have kids, then your time is at the disposal of your employer. I’m lucky in that the standard academic contract in this country specifically states that ‘it would not be appropriate’ to have fixed hours, and unless you’re actually teaching, there is no expectation that you will be in th office. But then there are meetings that last far too long because for administrators it’s what they do and they want to share the pain, and, as you say, the ‘compulsory’ socialising.

But…… there is the sort of shadow productivity that is expected of you if you want to progress; research ‘output’, income generation (where the humanities and arts will always be the poor relation) and ‘networking’ – I’m not the most gregarious of people at the best of times, and instrumentalising social life does my head in.

Of course the larger issue is the fact that the more time people spend at work, the less stuff happens outside the cash-nexus; volunteering, sport participation, making music and, most obviously, political involvement.


Michael Carley - July 20, 2017

“instrumentalising social life does my head in”: I finally have a phrase for why I dislike “networking”, which has always struck me as a respectable version of old-school-ties.


Alibaba - July 21, 2017

The same for me, networking does my head in. When the room is being worked, I’ve been thinking — but not saying — “You’ve come to suck my blood!”. 

Liked by 1 person

sonofstan - July 21, 2017

There was a phrase that showed up in quite a few student essays/ presentations last year, which meant someone had said it to them about ‘your network is your net worth’. Made my blood run cold….


Michael Carley - July 21, 2017

Mostly because it’s true: the network is what parents are buying when they send their children to a private school.


irishelectionliterature - July 21, 2017

My son plays hurling and gaelic football and after much encouragement eventually agreed to give up rugby.
I was telling one of my cousins this and she was horrified as “you get a better network from rugby” ….. …….. I laughed and remarked that the network mightn’t be much good if you’d a broken neck and brain damage.


FergusD - July 21, 2017

You guys sound like me! Thing is though, self-promoting yourself works in academia when it comes to climbing the greasy pole.


4. irishelectionliterature - July 20, 2017

It really is dreadful and can be exacerbated by working for a Multi National. I tend to come into work early as initially when I started in the job a few years back I would have been working with teams in China and India, so felt it was only fair that I come in as early as possible so they didn’t have to hang around.
On the other side of it there are people on the other side of the Atlantic who would set up meetings for 7 pm Irish Time or later and not give a damn. I have commitments with a number of different GAA teams, commitments with family, go to various matches and so on which means I’m busy most evenings.
The way out of this, conveniently for the employer, can be logging on at home in the evening. Its a vicious circle.

Liked by 2 people

5. roddy - July 20, 2017

Seems to be a middle class problem.The mention of “school fees” gives a clue.Tell you what ,get a real job on a site where you’ll finish about 4.30,send your children to a non fee paying school and sleep like a top all night due to actual physical labour!


sonofstan - July 20, 2017

Overwork is not just a middle class problem. I’ve worked in theatre and the live music industry where the typical day can stretch from 7am to 2am the following morning, Lads have left it to go and work on sites because its easier and more secure.

The real killer though is the combinationof hard physical work and insecurity – the Deliveroo rider, cycling, without adequate insurance, and no guaranteeed income from day to day, is the modern prole; not the -relatively -well paid and secure (by comparison) construction worker. And the ‘middle class’ equivalent is the agency temp, the supply teacher, the adjunct lecturer, the agency nurse…..

The problem Roddy is that ‘real’ jobs with fixed hours and a predictable income are shrinking even as employment figures rise (at least here in Britain)


6. roddy - July 20, 2017

The thing is ,as far as the media is concerned everybody works in an office.References are constantly made to “work stations,the water cooler,the office party,line manager,coffee breaks ,the cost of child care etc!


Liberius - July 20, 2017

the cost of child care etc!

Isn’t that a universal concern for people with young children?


sonofstan - July 20, 2017

Yeah, hate that.
But child care is not by any means a middle class only concern, Roddy. Lots of working class families -whether headed by one of two parents – can only survive by having their children minded for some or all of their working day.


sonofstan - July 20, 2017

‘that’ being the office assumption


7. roddy - July 20, 2017

It often involves middle class parents paying working class women a fraction of what they individually earn.Exploitation.!


Liberius - July 20, 2017

I don’t think anyone would argue that childcare workers aren’t underpaid compared the value of the work they do (a basic truism of capitalist economic order), but it’s a bit daft to assume that you have to be middle-class to need your children cared for while you work; for lower paid workers, particularly single mothers, that is a large barrier to maintaining employment.


8. roddy - July 20, 2017

Yes single mothers from a working class background are forced to remain at home or rely on relatives to help out while the toffs pay others a pittance and moan about it.


Liberius - July 20, 2017

So you don’t think it’s a problem that working class parents can’t afford to work, trapping them with a low standard of life?


9. roddy - July 20, 2017

It’s not working class parents I’m talking about but people earning big salaries due to the fact that they can pay others a pittance to care for their spoiled brats.


Liberius - July 20, 2017

I don’t know about that, it reads more like you think only middle class parents have childcare needs that can’t be met by reliance on family or exiting employment.


10. roddy - July 20, 2017

No matter what I would say, it would “read more” like something else anyway.You have “form” in this regard.


Liberius - July 20, 2017

If you say so.


WorldbyStorm - July 20, 2017

roddy, I’d be fairly sensitive I hope in respect to exploitation, quiet or otherwise, of working class people by middle class people. But I’ve got to be honest this isn’t a problem in my direct experience. It would be interesting to get stats though if available.


Alibaba - July 21, 2017

There’s a truth in what roddy says in the sense that middle class and better off people are cushioned by the fact that they can pay for childcare easier(ish), have au pairs and so on. The kids of the working class and lone parents are much harder to provide for. Typically this is done by relatives or by ad hoc arrangements or being obliged to stay at home instead, and basically spending larger portions of their income on childcare than well off families as indicated by Liberius below.

Although, to be candid, I don’t buy the notion of the ‘spoiled brats’ of the ‘people earning big salaries’. This smacks of the belief that one must first be of working class origin to gain respect and even some decent consideration.


11. 6to5against - July 20, 2017

In my experience – which is of course anecdotal – most people who are paid as child-minders live in families that are every bit as well off as those paying them. Living in similar houses in the same area, enjoying comparable holidays etc.

A particular problem for parents on low income, though, is that their earnings can hardly cover the cost of a minder. Or at least not with enough left over to make it worthwhile. I imagine it is often the parents/grandparents who are pressed into service in such situations who are the truly exploited.

And those without family support, I suppose, are the ones who stay at home with their children and listen to lectures about labour activation measures.

Liked by 1 person

12. Liberius - July 20, 2017

For Austria (Vienna), Ireland, Portugal, New Zealand and the United States (Michigan), inspection of the dark horizontal markers in panels (a),(b) and (c) of Figure 2.3 shows that absolute costs (shown as % of APW) are practically identical for low- and higher income families. Those on lower incomes therefore need to spend larger portions of their budgets on childcare than better-off families.

That’s from the below linked from a paper from IZA Bonn (I can’t ascertain reliability), particular attention should be paid to the graphs on pages 15, 16, 22, 23 and 26 which clearly show that Ireland is well below average as far as % of children in child care, is not the lowest but still near the bottom of the pile as far as maternal employment goes, has the highest costs of child care and very low levels of benefits to off-set that.

Click to access 506211754.pdf

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13. yourcousin - July 21, 2017

In terms of child care I’m going to side with Roddy. Most of my peers (thinking back over the last eight years since we had our kid) were split between superintendents and field hands. The guys in the field to a man (10-20 folks) had their wives stay home due to cost of child care. I knew two superintendents who had kids during this period. One had his wife (a nurse) stay home until the third child was in school. The other whose wife was the company lawyer sent their daughter to a fancy preschool.

That being said my wife and I always sent our son to Montessori schools. I would also note that the preschool care givers were definitely far more working class than most of the parents, as this was one of the most expensive preschools in Denver.

Now that the kid is in second grade I would say that his after hour care givers are still more working class than say, his teachers. in reality all that means is that they economically unstable and haven’t organized for their own economic benefit.

Not sure about the whole more blue collar than thou thing though🤔

In general still agree with Roddy but would point out a couple things.

Things like construction are more stable than say couriers because we organized. That being said there are efforts underway in the courier sector to organize.


And maybe to clarify Roddys point on the blue collar versus presenteism. I would agree that since most folks work by the hour (in the trades) it is not in the employer’s benefit to have a bunch of people working overtime. Not to mention the safety issues that arise during forced overtime in the elements. That being said we’ve all done the copious amounts of overtime and since I primarily work in healthcare construction I’ve worked every single hour in the day as a matter of course for years.


Liberius - July 21, 2017

The guys in the field to a man (10-20 folks) had their wives stay home due to cost of child care.

That’s the point though, child care costs are a barrier to continued employment of parents (overwhelmingly mothers) leading to a de facto ‘women’s place is in the home’ situation. You don’t have to be paying the high costs for it to be an issue as working class families would have their lives improved greatly if they could rely on a socially subsidised child care regime like the ones that exist in Scandinavia rather than exit employment (taking a drop in household income) or rely in the unpaid labour of relatives (who might not even exist).

I don’t see how we can get towards a more egalitarian situation if you cut it off as being a ‘middle-class issue’ just because at present most working class parents are priced out of accessing child care; that’s a form of logic which wouldn’t be acceptable with other issues like housing healthcare and schooling, and yet apparently it is acceptable on this issue.


RosencrantzisDead - July 21, 2017

You side with roddy yet you supply an anecdote that undermines his point.

If a person has a job where they can afford to have one partner stay at home, they will need to explain why this does not make them ‘middle class’ (insofar as this term has any useful meaning).

All it does is demonstrate how ‘white collar’ and ‘blue collar’ do not giev us much insight into economic or social positions.


14. Alibaba - July 21, 2017

I noticed presenteeism when working in the public sector. It was done mainly by senior management and some of those seeking promotion. It manifested itself in different ways. Some people threw the jacket on the back of the chair and took themselves off elsewhere. Some stay sitting, while they worked on their diploma or masters or other stuff. Some worked their butts off, leaving much undone in their private lives. Some on contracts were under pressure not only to deliver, but to be seen to do so over and above what’s required. Such exhaustion doesn’t deliver productivity. It is stupidity for authorities to think so. On the other hand, some who work late do so to avoid the weariness of commuting times in busy traffic. And those who have access to the Flexi Time system have the incentive to leave early, as they see fit. And there was an extra day’s leave per month if the hours were worked up. That’s a win:win. Job done. Get out. Things to do. 

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