Not only are many of us hustling at work, we've got a side-hustle we're working on. We turn hobbies into businesses, we spend our weekends on our other gigs. Sometimes it's because money is tight, although that's less often the issue in a business with a union contract. Sometimes it's because we feel that we should always be working.
Where did that idea come from? More importantly, can we finally call it a COVID-related fatality and go back to "eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, and eight hours for what you will"?
The Union movement won a great battle to get the standard work week down to 40 hours, but industry has been encroaching on that win ever since. During the tech boom of the 1990s
, "the notion of “playbour”, work so enjoyable that it is interchangeable with leisure, has been the dream. From there, it spiralled in all directions: hobbies became something to monetise, wellness became a duty to your workplace and, most importantly, if you love your work, it follows that your colleagues are your intimates, your family." And pushing the idea that your work will "treat you like family" is another way that industry gets us to set aside our actual
families, hinting instead that "we expect to be the top priority in your life."
And that's just not okay.
During the pandemic, we've seen a very divided approach to work. There were the often underpaid and overworked "essential workers" that had to brave the COVID-landscape so that the rest of us could eat, get energy to our homes, get cared for if we got sick. Although these folks were often called "heroes" and may have gotten some bump in "hazard pay" early on, we've seen much of that eroded ever since. The "fight for fifteen
" may have started well before the pandemic, but the inequalities in the way we pay people doing essential work has exacerbated the need for an increase in the minimum wage well beyond the temporary hazard pay increases.
Then there are those who were sent home to work. The encroachment of the job on the family became so overwhelming that it is nearly complete. What started with pagers and became worse with smartphones, became overwhelming for many people during work-from-home. On the plus side, one could work the hours that best fit your lifestyle and family even if that's not eight straight. On the other hand, how do you know when the work day is done? Especially if your manager has different prime working hours, people can get pulled into working when they should be done.
We suffer in the US, from the idea that our work equals our value. That our company can't get along without us (or so they would have us believe -- until they outsource our work). That working through lunch or late into the night was laudable. In some cases, it may have led to promotions where the lucky worker was given the opportunity to work even longer hours. But nearly as likely is the possibility of estrangement from family and the loss of those things that the job was supposed to be paying for!
It's great to love your job. It's also okay to like you job enough to show up for it and love the things that the job allows you to afford. With the pandemic, we have the opportunity to step back -- from the time in the office, from the hours we've been led to believe we needed to work -- and to reassess what is truly important. Your work isn't your family, but your family is. Your boss no longer knows if you're working through lunch, so take that break and spend the time doing "what you will" and recharge. The Union won the 40-hour workweek long ago. It's time to get back to it.