Friday, August 20, 2010

Work Life Balance Doesn’t Exist in Canada

A recent study by an Ontario college says over a third of Canadians spend 10 hours or more at work (though those hours also include the travel time to and from that work).
Everest College in Toronto claims Alberta has the most dedicated workers, with 44 percent of those surveyed saying they spend 10 or more hours per day on office related tasks. Manitoba and Saskatchewan tied at 39 percent, while Ontario and the Atlantic province came in at 38 percent. The west-coast is often mocked for it’s casual hippie-type lifestyles, but maybe that image is true, as only 28 percent of people surveyed from British Columbia said they spend 10-plus hours per day at the office.
Funny thing, when computers were just beginning to enter homes back in the 1980’s, futurists, technological gurus, and computer geeks everywhere were saying that those magic mechanical boxes of blinking lights and whirling noises were going to cut the amount of time spent at work. Some even boldly declared we’d have four-day work weeks by the dawn of the new millennium.
I should have known that was flawed, when 1999 rolled over into 2000, and although everyone was worried about the dangers of Y2K, the work week still was five long, laborious days.
Computers actually in more instances than not, INCREASED our amount of time at the office. They constantly fill our minds with emails, instant messages, and manage our overflowing voice-mails. Instead of walking over to our colleague’s desk to discuss that new report, we just send it through email – and in turn, that once 25-page report comes back to us through email, often hundreds of pages more, and requiring a read through.
Thanks to computers, we can work at home – many offices have secure networks you can link to, and our voice networks – run by computers – allow us to call into conference calls from anywhere around the world.
That also means we can be reached at anytime, anywhere by work. How many of you have taken your office-issued BlackBerry or other smart phone with you on vacation, only to find yourself reading and responding to work related emails?
And if your co-workers can email you even when you are on vacation, they can call you too. “Just email that contract to my BlackBerry, I’ll sign it right away.”
As the labour market continues to shift from an employee-based one, towards contract and temporary consultant-based, more people are burning the midnight oil at the office.
Companies generally don’t care if they burn out a contracted consultant, they don’t have to pay for your benefits, so if you get sick or develop psychological issues from being constantly under the gun, it’s no skin off their back. Need to take time off to deal with that overtime-related stress? Doesn’t bother your “employer” – contractors don’t generally get sick days, extended medical coverage, or other benefits, so it won’t cost your boss anything if you take it off. Worse still, consultants only get paid for the time they spend working, so anytime of is lost wages.
And as more and more full-time staff jobs are lost in the new economy, there are suddenly a whole lot more people willing to work those excessive inhumane hours, just to keep a roof overhead, and food in their tummies.
Statistics Canada’s employment numbers for this month weren’t very good – the Canadian government department which keeps tabs on these things says the economic recovery has slowed down, as thousands more full-time permanent jobs have disappeared, most likely forever.
This tosses fear into the working world, causing those with staff jobs to do whatever it takes – even if it means working more hours than are healthy – in the hopes that our employers will spare our jobs from the cutting block.
And so continues the cycle of constantly increasing working days, and shorter recovery times.
Time for a break . . . I think . . .
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