9 thoughts on “Stop working for free

  1. Wait, wait! Aren’t you the same EHRL who said that workers shouldn’t whine about 50 or 70 hour weeks? Suppose you’re told upon hiring, “You get two weeks vacation per year, and you’re expected to work 40 hours a week, though we may ask you to work a little longer when there’s an issue or project deadline.” Standard hiring line, right? Then you find that 50 hour weeks are the cultural minimum and much more is quite often asked for preventable panics. How is that not “working for free?”

    I’ve often wondered, when too exhausted after a long week to be of much use, couldn’t I take vacation hours and leave “early” on Friday afternoon? How many vacation hours should I take if I’ve already worked 50+ hours that week? If I’ve already worked 9 hours in a day in which 8 is demanded but 10+ is expected? If working just 40 hours a week most of the time makes one a bad employee, why doesn’t taking most of one’s allotted vacation similarly make one a bad employee, and leaving vacation time in the bank count in the same way that hours over 40/week count?

    I work about 50 hours a week and leave a third to half of my allotted vacation on the table in an attempt to be seen as “engaged” and a less likely layoff candidate. I’d actually be engaged – that is, have my heart in my work instead of faking it – if I had enough time to recuperate. I’d be more innovative and productive too. But I know productivity isn’t as easy to measure – and isn’t as carefully measured by my company – as is my vacation bank and my hours per week.

    1. I don’t see a conflict between sucking it up and working 50 hours in a week, because that’s the norm in many exempt positions, and taking vacation.

      I think you should do both.

      But, as a caution, the people making the layoff decisions may have never even met you (if you work in a large company), so how many vacation days you did or did not take will not play a role in that decision.

      1. There’s a correlation between these two things, though. The more hours per week your job generally takes, the more extra work you’re going to have to do before you leave and, unfortunately, while you’re away. Most organizations really aren’t going to have people hanging around that can do your 55 hours in your absence, and some of them aren’t going to be able to have *any* people who can do extra hours . My unit’s tiny, for instance, so there’s no room for task takeover, and a week away isn’t worth a 75-hour workweek before and after.

        I don’t disagree with your underlying point about vacations being part of your compensation and it garnering you no credit to lose them, but the longer the workweek, the more difficult it is to redistribute the hours off to another week or person.

        1. I agree with what you’ve said here. It is hard to get away. But, if you are putting in 70 hour work weeks regularly it’s even more important that you take vacation.

          Otherwise, you’ll burn out and be of no use to anyone.

          1. I burn out quicker doing 105-hour weeks before the vacation than I do doing a 70-hour week instead of taking one.

  2. I have a problem with this–and I live in France, where five weeks of paid vacation is every employee’s right! Part of the problem stems from being young and male and having a hard time planning ahead for this sort of thing. But I’ve got to, because if I don’t, they go ahead and load me up with clients any and every moment they please. It seems sometimes I don’t even have a set day off respected. WHOOF.

  3. I realize I’m a little late to the party here, but I wanted to say that I like having a reserve of about 5 days that I can use as “insurance” in case I quite/get fired/laid off (guaranteeing a one week “severance” if no real severance is offered) or have a non-FMLAbcdefg qualifying emergency. We are allowed to carry over quite a bit of leave, and I don’t actually know anyone with a “use it or lose it” policy for such a low reserve of vacation days (although I do know that those policies are out there.)

Comments are closed.

Are you looking for a new HR job? Or are you trying to hire a new HR person? Either way, hop on over to Evil HR Jobs, and you'll find what you're looking for.