All entries for Monday 12 February 2007

February 12, 2007

Work Hours

A serious Boar column, in that I was really genuinely concerned about what I was writing about. I was reliably informed by someone earlier that they don’t read my serious ones because the funny ones are better. However this does have a funny comment in it. You’ve just got to find it. Nyer.

I don’t really know at what point I started doing it, but recently I’ve started branching out in my conversations about employment. As a postgrad, I find a lot if my friends are now in jobs, or at the very least applying for as many as they can. I’ve never taken much interest in the whole thing, to the extent that whenever it came up in conversation I would activate autopilot and ask the right questions whilst my brain occupied itself with more important things like whether Didier Drogba’s recent dip in form was a good enough reason to offload him from my fantasy football team. Invariably the right questions were “Where is it based?” and “What’s the starting salary?”. But now, possibly because the day of getting a job looms closer and closer, I’ve started to pay attention and care. And I know because I’ve started asking a new question – “What are the working hours?”

We don’t get the work/life balance concept in this country. When we hear Europeans get shorter working weeks or more bank holidays we grumble, our reflexive reaction to any hint that Europeans might get a better deal. But we don’t seem to take it all in. We don’t consider that we might genuinely be working too hard. The Japanese have recognised that they do. They even have a word – karoshi – to describe death from overwork, the heart attacks and strokes suffered by people decades younger than the normal heart attack or stroke sufferer. It’s not encouraging to ask a load of recent graduates what their typical working day is only to hear “It’s meant to be 9 to 6 but it’s usually more like 8.30 to 6.30, 7”. And then there’s those City jobs which can take you late into the night in search of bonuses. Is it any wonder a phd is looking more and more attractive?

The problem is I work ten hour days during the holidays, have done for several years, and don’t really want that fulltime. It’s perfectly fine to do minimum 50 hours weeks for the four weeks of a university holiday, but every week for years on end? What for? Extra money? What you gonna spend it on? You’re in work all the bloody time, and when you’re not, you’re probably physically and emotionally drained. It would be nice if the graduate recruiters were a bit more upfront about working hours, but they’re selling themselves and the news that you’ll be wallowing in five hours sleep five nights a week isn’t really a big seller to a section of the population renowned for its ability to sleep up to 14 hours or through a fullscale fire alarm, probably with actual flames and burning buildings.

This is not to advocate some idealistic hippy land where we all live on a commune and grow our own food. Hell, I grew up next to the countryside and if there’s one group who work long hours it’s farmers. No, I just want a job which doesn’t eat up my entire life, one hour at a time. I know you’re probably feeling cheated that this column isn’t as amusing as it sometimes is, but this time I don’t think what I’m writing about is funny (unlike government scandal or nuclear war, which I’ve already proved I find hilarious). You know when your mates can’t even come over for dinner because they’ve worn themselves out from leaving too much work to do that day? Imagine that happening every day. Capitalism should be here to serve the people, not the other way around. And people wonder why I don’t want to get a job – I do want to have a job, I just want to have a life at the same time.

February 2007

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