Employment: I don’t want to work 7am-7pm!

Disclaimer: I’m incredibly lucky. I work 9-5 and not much more. I am very productive during that time and I appreciate that the company I work for don’t keep me back late and encourage us to actually have lives outside of the office. However, I have worked for companies that expected crazy long hours for no reason and most people now work 7am-7pm. This is for you guys.

Have you heard the latest out of France? No, not about the smog or whatever’s happening on the catwalk. I mean the news that it is now illegal for French business people to now work past 6pm! (Well, some French people… the ones who belong to the unions that are part of this agreement, anyways… I bet their membership is about to jump!)

Yes, you heard right: a new labour agreement allows employees to ignore their emails (including on their smartphones), once they’ve left their office for the day.

This is a great initiative that forces people,especially bosses, to remember that there is such a thing as life outside of work and that people deserve uninterrupted time with their friends, family and television. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want this – in fact doesn’t everyone who doesn’t work with me wish for better work life balance? Furthermore, I don’t think people who work crazy hours are necessarily more productive or better at their jobs. However, they are definitely more likely to be stressed and more miserable – do we really want to breed that kind of culture in our offices?

My current boss rarely contacts me when I’m not at the office. In fact I’m pretty sure the only time she called was the week before Christmas because I’d flown to Perth without filling in my payroll and she wanted to ensure I got paid before Christmas! (Yeah, I know how lucky I am.)

My last boss however? Well I used to get calls on Easter Monday while I was at my grandparent’s house, asking me to do things and getting frustrated when I explained that a) I was in Adelaide and b) my grandparent’s don’t have the internet. They also used to expect me to stay until 6:30/7pm, even if there wasn’t any work for me to do and I was just twiddling my thumbs. Yes, being forced to stay back made me even less productive because I resisted them and the nightmare workplace they’d created.

I’m not saying you should never stay late, but I am saying that sometimes things can wait and staying late every night ‘just because’ really isn’t good for anyone at the end of the day. And if your staff are constantly staying late, maybe you need to look at the workload you’re giving them. Productivity should be measured on output, not hours spent at a desk.

Oh but it’s good to be busy, you argue. Pah! PAH! I laugh in your faces. Everyone needs to stop bragging about how busy they are. People who work crazy long hours constantly eventually find themselves in a rut. They miss things, they can’t innovate as well and they burn out. Being busy isn’t a good thing.

I’ve heard stories from friends who have worked until 3am on a Friday on projects that apparently ‘just can’t wait until Monday’, who have been called back in on Sundays to work on something that, again, ‘just can’t wait until Monday’ and who have been forced to skip family events because work ‘just can’t wait until the next day’. (At least one of those was me, actually…) It’s enough to make you want to quit your job and live on the dole – at least you’d have a social life!

So yes, I never want to leave my current job because that means risking a return to the craziness of 100-hour work weeks, when I’m more than happy with the 40-odd hours I do at the moment – I like coming home at a reasonable hour and chilling out! I actually have time to do things I enjoy, like write this blog.

And yes, I will continue to whinge about this because I think we are absolutely behind the French in terms of industrial relations. Did you know they have five weeks annual leave? Oh what I’d do with five weeks annual leave…

Oh yeah, and while you’re sitting there, green with envy over the French – did you know that Gothenburg, Sweden is trialing a six hour work day? I think it’s time to move to Europe!

Are you forced to work crazy overtime? How do you feel about it? What would you do with yourself if you were able to clock off by 6pm every night?