Monday, 23 November 2009


“Never work just for money or for power. They won't save your soul or help you sleep at night.” - Marian Wright Edelman

I’ve had a really long day at work today, getting in at about 7:00 am and coming back home about 6:00 pm. Although this is not a typical day for me, it is usual for me on all days to work long hours and often my work comes home with me at weekends. I have much to do and many people depend on my activities, so things must be ready on time, ever time. Add to that the invariable crises that I need to deal with and that explains why I have to work so many hours. This is an expectation that most Australians have to live with in their place of employment. The Australia Institute has done a study on the work habits of Australians and they have published the results of surveys they have conducted, with some amazing (though not surprising) results.

On average, the typical Australian full-time worker does 70 minutes of unpaid overtime per day, Translating this to a yearly figure gives us 33 eight-hour days (over six weeks!). This is enough to nullify annual leave entitlements. Who is to blame? The Institute maintains it’s the workers themselves, who take pride in their work and do whatever they need to do to get the job done. What about the managers and bosses? They are often victims themselves, but some who work normal hours may not realise that their staff are overworked and putting so much time in the interests of the company. Peer pressure is to blame as well, and people who leave right on the dot are often frowned upon by the more “conscientious” workers.

Overtime is something that in some jobs is acknowledged and rewarded, but in other situations, unacknowledged and unrewarded overtime is part of the job. The eight-hour work-day that was won with such difficulty all of those decades ago is nowadays being eroded rather insidiously. The result of all this is of course an increased risk of health problems, relationship breakdown, alienation of family and friends. Someone who works nine and ten hour days with work brought home at the weekend will not be someone who is relaxing adequately and contributing to family life, nor able to be an active member in leisure and relationship-building activities.

Tomorrow has been declared as National Australian “Go Home on Time Day”. The Australia Institute is encouraging people to log on in their site and leave their email contact details there. You nominate the time you wish to be sent an email reminder with an attached skip of paper that tells you (and your boss!) that it is time to go home on time!

In terms of peer pressure, it is perhaps a good idea to start and educational program that gets people to be more efficient and be better time managers. Although many people are spending more time working, are they doing it as effectively as they can? Perhaps we may need to inculcate our workers with a culture of working to capacity and efficiently within the bounds of the eight-hour work day, and training them to frown on people who do unpaid overtime as inefficient, or as victims of a boss who takes advantage of them…

Tomorrow at least, if not every day from now on, GO HOME ON TIME!


  1. Is that right? I'm an Aussie who didn't know tomorrow was Go Home On Time Day...I wonder how many people know about it...
    very true though...many families are suffering because of the amount of time everyone spends at work. I stayed with my daughter recently and she leaves for work at around 7.30 and is still there at nine pm...
    OK so she's management but it's still a long day.

  2. Here in the U.S., since the 80's many of us have worked under very similar circumstances as you describe. I was in that rat race. I was tired, overweight, unhappy. But I felt I simply had to keep it up. Then one day I got a job offer I wasn't even seeking. It came with a big pay cut, but was for a company that had won awards for happy employees. "No overtime unless it's really, truly needed, and that's rarely," said my friend recruiting me.

    I jumped at the job. That was eight years ago and I have never looked back. I didn't even miss the difference in pay. Eventually I made it up and then some. But the most wonderful thing is that most days of the year, I go home on time. Yes I have deadlines -- we all do. But I can reasonably get things done in 40 hours a week. Thanks to company wellness programs, I've lost weight, and become healthier. I enjoy my work and I enjoy having a life, too.

    I have since recuited my son, my daughter, and my daughter-in-law to work at the same company. And they, in turn have recruited others.

    I wish all employers understood that happy employees are productive, stay a long time, and recruit others. It's a win-win for everyone.

  3. hello Niholas.
    Waouh! astralia! how I would like to be an "email" to go so far away! my english is very bad, I had just look the pictures on your blog. what a pity.
    thanks a lot for your enthusiasm, and kiss a little bit of australian's earth for me, please.

  4. Oh what a great idea!!!!! I think we need a day like this here too. All of my coworkers and I work more hours than we are meant to and it is an expectation that we need to get the job done. Of course it interferes with relationships and family life.
    What Becky writes above about her new job sounds like a godsend! I wish I could find a job like that!

  5. Ouch! I thought it is only in the US people are working 70-hour weeks... I normally stay at school 2-3 extra hours - just because I like to be able to teach effectively... I have to be ready... I invent games... manipulatives... check papers... My district pays for 50 min. prep time - it is about enough to answer e-mails we get from admin... And you are so right - teachers who go home right after work hours are looked down upon - and- sorry to say that- their performance is terrible...That means we are expected to do much more than the schools are willing to pay us for. So, we pick up the tab and we are called "workaholics"

  6. I've always been a firm believer in the fact that workaholism eventually kills as do all habits gone awry. Very good blog and something to watch dog for sure. So here's to you and some R&R. Cheers

  7. We all fall into that trap at some stage in our lives. Many of us never manage to break our of that self-destructive cycle. I've been there and done that...
    Now I have a more balanced life and even though I making less money, I am enjoying work more and have a life!