Working from home.

A recent survey from the National Sleep Foundation stated that one third of workers had fallen asleep or been very sleepy at work over the past month.  For some jobs (such as mine) that’s not really a big deal.  I’ve definitely taken catnaps on a conference room floor during my lunch hour before.  In fact, back when our office had less people and more space, there was even a nap room with a big comfy couch for sleeping.  Personally I would love it if the nap room came back.  Or if we at least got removable hammocks for one of the conference rooms.

What was more noteworthy to me in the survey was the reason people said they were not getting enough sleep –  most reported it was the work that was keeping them up late.  With longer workdays and renewed job requirements for work from home after hours, people aren’t really working a 40-hour work week anymore.  It’s more like 50.  And those hours start cutting into sleep time when people don’t want to give up time with family and friends.

In my current low-level responsibility job, I rarely if ever stay late at work.  There are occasional times when  a document needs to be maile don a certain date and I have to stay a bit late to get it out.  And there are usually a few days that I spend late each quarter to get the quarterly books I manage compiled, printed, and mailed.  But I don’t find that ridiculous.  And I make a point to not be cheated of that time.  In fact, there’s an employment policy in place which states you’re supposed to take 1.5 hours of comp time for every hour of overtime you work.  Fancy that!

I think the sleep deprivation issue comes from another sort of job though.  Jobs with more importance, or jobs where turnaround time is important.  Mike’s job is like that – it seems to require quite a bit of off-hour attention.  I’m sure that the printer we work with also ends up doing overtime on our print job.  And to a certain extent, this is to be expected.  These are jobs where time and speed are priced, where they have extra value and determine the worth of the product, because that speed is a part of the service rendered.   Other jobs, such as sleep deprivation researchers or night watchmen, require an inversion of sleep schedules that can be disturbing and depressing.  What do we say to these people?  Should they quit their jobs due to these unfair demands on their time and schedule?  Or is this service increasingly necessary?

Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol with a specific intention: to advocate for a WHOLE day of Christmas holiday time for the lower-class worker.  As time passed and the Industrial revolution moved forward, work was no longer constrained by sunlight- hours increased.  Finally, factors such as the World Wars and a new model of economics placed a higher value on work hours and reinforced the value of laziness/idleness and consumerism.

Somehow though, things have swung back the other way in America.   When did we start to value our time so cheaply?  And why?

Working Hours (by year)


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