Wednesday, June 27, 2007

All the wilting people....

This post is based on two others, both of which I've read in the past few days....

Lucia asks how much energy it is draining from her to work full time. KC brings up the issue of maternity leave.

The demands of working have simply taken too much from all of us. I personally burned out at 52 and had to get out.

But I remember what it was like to hold down a full-time job. I had no energy. Each day was consumed with commuting, working, commuting, paying bills, having a meal, going to bed. Repeat and rinse. Day after day. Frankly, I couldn't see much purpose in it because all it offered was maintenance. It's not like I was creating anything. I was just surviving.

The workplace culture has become increasingly toxic since the late 70s. It's no longer enough to do a job for eight hours a day. They want to influence our values, our time off and our choices. In some cases, workplace managers even try to influence our political decisions. I remember many years ago, working at Hewlett-Packard, and a memo went out to all employees, "suggesting" a particularly local candidate to support.

My point is that workplace demands have become too much for nearly everyone, except perhaps the most devoted workaholic. And I think we'll all admit that "workaholism" is just as unhealthy as any of the other "-aholisms".

In Europe, to the best of my knowledge, work/life issues are balanced. Vacations are more frequent and longer. Family life is honored. I'm sure there are many more countries that have this kind of balance but I can't cite them without doing a lot more research than I am interested in doing right now. Scandinavia? Central Asia? I'm not certain about those places.

My real question is this: How long are working people going to tolerate this? Isn't it time to speak up and start demanding a bit more consideration of our time and other priorities?

What will happen as the baby boomers begin retiring and there is a smaller work force? It may end up being the best thing that can happen. Employers will have to treat employees better and offer more benefits. As far as I know, there are some jobs that can not be outsourced to India.

I'd be curious to hear from others on this. Truly, I am only beginning to think it through. Toss some wisdom my way.




Laurie said...

I truly love my job, Chani, but I've had jobs that sucked the life out of me. Horrible hours, terrible conditions, bosses that treated their workers like slaves. I'd like to think that isn't the norm, but I'm starting to wonder.

Julie Pippert said...

This has bothered me tremendously for a long time, and it only seems to get worse and worse.

First, yes, the balance is so far out of whack it's ridiculous.

I ranted in my post Working all the live long day about the imbalance and its effects.

Second, I don't know how long we are going to tolerate it. Until Moses leads us out of Egypt, I guess.

All of us are too dependent on the income. We do not have financial space to make a stand and few have the courage to do so, anyway.

And then you have the concern of inequitability in gender, as well. And family status (childfree workers rant about carrying an unfair burden of work). So we don't all have the same POV.

So a united movement seems unlikely.

When my generation---the busters---are left after mass boomer retirement (although...when is that? people are working longer and longer...) there might be a cultural change, as you suggested. The trouble is, we are so few and we are followed by the Echo Boom. The time would be very brief (if at all) since the echo boom is already entering the workforce. And they are huge and mighty in number, at least.

UGH yes this is a frustration.

Good topic.

I'll cut myself off since my blog post says this all too LOL.

Anvilcloud said...

It wasn't supposed to be this way. We were supposed to have more leisure time. Of course, it's greed with English speaking countries seeming to lead the way.

flutter said...

YOu know what Chani? I just don't know.

slouching mom said...

And have you noticed that our country's productivity has risen as work hours get longer and longer?

quite the opposite!

Christine said...

I wish i had some wisdom to toss at you dude, but I am fresh out.

I do know that I agree with you that work can just suck our life force from us.

So many people balk when i say that i may not go back to work after the kids are older and in school. Or they say (or think) we must be rich (not true at all!). I just can't imagine throwing myself into a job I wouldn't like for a few extra dollars. i know not everyone has this "luxury" as some people see it. But my husband has a great, flexible, job and so do i as a SAHM. I'd rather do with out the second car or name brand foods and keep chugging along as we are. Hey i like used clothes and homemade cereal! LOL Seriously though, so many people think you HAVE to have a career or a job or you are just a lazy fool. I simply don't buy into this.

meno said...

I liked working. I loved working part time. And i LOVE being retired.

When i worked full time i was exhausted and stressed every day. Weekends, which should be filled with relaxation, were instead filled with laundry and shopping and other maintenance.

But it was fun and challenging and exciting too.

ellie bee said...

I live to retire. Then, I will probably keep doing what I do as a volunteer, because the parts of it I love, I really love.

I have honored you with a rockin girl blogger award. Please pop over and check it out, and pass it on!

jen said...

i think it's unnatural and only designed to fit the production/consumption treadmill.

that said, if it can be work that employs your passion, it might make it better.

and honestly, i am so burnt right now that all i can think is that two weeks a year is scientifically and all other allies absurd.

Snoskred said...

So is anyone here tempted by the possibilities of earning money from your blogs, or other online earning type activities?

Anonymous said...

Wait a sec. Chani, you quit working at 52 because it became too much? Now you're on government disability and still know what a full-time job is about? How come you can't work part-time, or from home or whatever so you aren't on SSD? Karen Peters

Anonymous said...

America no longer has a representative government, we are a corporate oligarchy. Companies treat their employees like liabilities, a cost which must be kept low. The only people that matter in our society are the shareholders.

Until that changes, the working class will suffer- and the only way that will change is through revolution. Voting is a wasted effort.

Tabba said...

This is so interesting, Chani.

I remember being 17, just out of high school. Everyone was putting pressure on me to pursue college, pursue a career. I was working as a workstudy at MBNA. I promptly quit that job & went to work for a family business as a preschool teacher. As well as some other full-time jobs.
I felt like I was in crisis. Because everything (in terms of careers and jobs) felt so pointless. The only thing I felt was rewarding was when I was working with the kids. Beyond that, it was just sickeningly pointless. And everyone else around me didn't understand that. So, I felt isolated. Like something was wrong with me.

I think in order for people to sustain what they are doing, companies and employers need to come around to 2007. And offer ample time off for vacations/sick/maternity leave.
Not to mention, salaries are just not keeping up with the demands of just surviving.

A change is in order. For sure.

Gwen said...

I will play devil's advocate for a second: the European countries that have more family friendly work policies also have much higher taxes. There's a trade off involved: you can have a better quality of life, but then you're going to have less money. But this seems to be a country that very much wants its cake, and to eat it, too. We seem unable, nationally speaking, to accept that hard choices have to be made.

(Think about how much we are spending on the war in Iraq, for example, and yet our current gov't. somehow managed to cut taxes and give money back. Yay for them! Only, how is that fiscally responsible? It isn't. But for awhile, the majority was okay with that because instant gratification sure is nicer, isn't it?)

There's a lot of talk about how so many people are being squeezed by The Man, but I have a hard time sympathizing with some of that (certainly not all of it) while we still--even the working poor--consume SO MUCH.

It's a conundrum. We can't all just stop working. And even the shittiest jobs are necessary for the society to continue. Who wants to pick up garbage or be the guy working the highway jackhammer, but without those things, the center really wouldn't hold. It's very lovely to hope we can live in a world where everyone works at jobs they love, only not too much, but it's not exactly realistic either.

thailandchani said...

Laurie, I think it's great when someone can find a job they love. I'll bet a lot of the stress and tiredness wouldn't be there under those circumstances. :)


Julie, thanks for the link. It was an interesting article.. and raises many of the same points.

At a certain point, I believe any culture has to decide on its priorities. Family and balance should always come first.. in my opinion. The current ethic spiders out and ruins many things....


Anvil, I agree.. and it's not good for the earth, for people .. really for anything.


Flutter, neither do I. Not really. I know what my gut says.


SM, exactly.. and people are generally just less satisfied with their lives.


Christine, that's really part of the key to all of this. How much are people willing to sacrifice to change their lifestyles. As you might already know, I'm a major supporter of stay at home moms. It's best for the kids, best for families and best for the culture. While it does mean making sacrifices, I don't see that as such a big problem. Less stuff. More quality of life. Seems pretty easy to me.


Meno, there's something to be said for it when it's not sheer drudgery. When I was working, it was just drudgery.. and I had a reasonably well paying job in the IT department. It just became... meaningless.


Ellie, at least you will be free to practice in your own way, giving of your gift to those who really need it and wouldn't have it otherwise. I think that would be wonderful!

Thanks for the acknowledgment. I do appreciate it very much.


Jen, I agree completely. I will go one step further and say it is all about social control. If people have no time for anything else but working, they can't raise up very much.. and certainly can't ask too many difficult questions.


Snos, not me.


Karen, my medical situation is private. But.. addressing what you are saying in a more general way, I believe SSDI is there for people who can no longer be in the workforce and I have no problem with anyone using it. All those years of working pay into it. It's not taking from anyone else.. and even if it was, I still support it. We live in a community. Everyone has different capabilities.

If people could survive on part time jobs and if it was possible to work at home, I suspect most people would opt for that over SSDI.


Thomas, I fundamentally agree with you.


Tabba, I honestly believe that not everyone is meant for the business world or even for a commerce-focused occupation. (I am not one either.. and I began getting the pressure you are talking about around 1969, when I graduated from high school. That is when the shift began... before that it was generally assumed that women would stay home and raise families.

That's part of the inherent problem. Feminism was supposed to free us to make choices. It just switched one set of no choices for another set of no choices.


Gwen, I understand what you're saying.. however, I do think we sometimes have to look at what is good for All over what is good for Individual. If we have to pay more taxes, so be it. There is always someone who will take those other jobs, for one reason or another. I believe that it is not the job itself that is nearly the problem as the culture that surrounds it.




QT said...

Chani, I agree with Gwen. People are so unwilling to pay more taxes to have the benefits of which you speak. I guess I can't blame them - I certainly can't sit here and tell you I would trust the government with any more money thatn they already have!