Work, life, imbalance 

Regular readers know I don’t write about my work in this blog, except to say how stress from work affects my sleep and my time to blog. 


I’ve mused before out work and identity.  I don’t want to say work is not part of my life. But it is not all of me, of of my desires, all of what I want to with my time. 

I used not to take balance to mean that time has to be equal because my work ethic meant I accepted spending more time working. But then I read about the 40 hour week and how the unions campaigned for 8 hours work, 8 hours rest and 8 hours whatever. Now I know that wasn’t for management but my award says I work a 7 hour day. 

But don’t you get all those holidays? ask most people and recently a Queensland pollie. Yes, but if I worked in state office, time spent over that accrues for flexi-days off. 

And a couple of minor things took places that really pissed me off. Basically bureaucrats making determinations that ignored the hours spent working and some policy determinations that were just stupid and heartless. 

So I thought I would work out reasonable work hours. And just “let it go” for all the things not done. 

Let’s look at my award. I apparently  work a 7 hour week. That’s a 35 hour week. Let’s say that is for your usual 48 weeks a year. That’s 1,680 hours a year. 

Now let’s cram that into 41 weeks of school term. That’s just under 41 hours a week. But l will donate that extra bit of an hour, effectively working an extra 4 hours above my award every year. Generous, aren’t I?

Anyway the 41 hour week equates to just over 8 hours a day. So if I work 7.45am to 4.45pm without a break, I am working 9 hours a day. Most of my recess and lunch are spent dealing with work issues, but I am happy to concede I must take 15 minutes for morning tea and 30 minutes for lunch. So that becomes 8 hours and 15 minutes a day working. 

At least every second week I have an evening function: so add 2 to 3 hours on for these, though some are much longer, over four hours. And if it is too much bother to go home, because I have work to do, I end up staying from 7.45am until 11pm. A long day!

I’m reclaiming my time. To gain back the time given to evening functions, I will leave 2 hours and 15 minutes earlier once a month for my massage; 3 hours early from once a term after a set work meeting and an hour and 45minutes  on Fridays to beat the traffic. 

Reclaiming my equilibrium and equanimity. Not just my time. 

How, you ask?

I’ve taken my work emails off my iPhone. I won’t have my email account sitting open on my desktop. I will look at the emails three times a day – on getting to work, before lunch and an hour before leaving. And I will have automatic out of office replies for holiday times, saying I am unable to access my email account. If it’s an emergency they can phone and if it isn’t they can wait. 

I will shut my door more to get my work done rather than be available to take other people’s buck passing. 

I will walk out the door and let things go if they can’t be done in the time given. 

OK, reality time. I know I will spend some weekends doing work at some times of the year. But see, it isn’t just the hours but the emotional and intellectual intensity of the work. I need to put these restrictions up and learn to be less of a perfectionist at work. 

I’ll let you know how I go. 

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11 thoughts on “Work, life, imbalance 

  1. Somewhere I have read that the new word is work life blending rather than balance. I find it impossible to balance and probably easier to blend. I think about work plans in the shower at home and my To do and shopping list whilst at work. I am constantly switching between home life and work life – some people like my colleague who died appear to do it seamlessly – me, I struggle a bit. You do right in reclaiming time for yourself. Keep us posted.

    • Blending, yes, I can see that as work and not-work time are not really balanced. I definitely spend more time at work in term time. But I worry if it is a term used by those who want to white wash the incursion of work into much of our non-work time? All time blends to just being on call!

  2. Oh that politician! I had to step away from The Facebook that day, seeing some of my “friend” list liking that post.

    This year, I want to find an app to log my real-time hours during term (all the midnight corrections and weekend prep and night functions) so I really can justify to myself the whole “teacher term breaks are time-in-lieu” argument. I know I feel the stupidly high stress in term but I want data to target areas for change.

    My favourite forthcoming week of term so far is the one at Camp…when we’re also rostered on for 2 x Parent Teacher Nights. We’ve been asked to make night phone appointments for the interviews before Camp…because being at work 24 hours a day for 4 days is not enough?!

    OK enuf whingeing but…grrr!

  3. I like your 41 weeks / 41 hours argument. Most of my co-workers agree we do between 45-50 hours in an average week in term. So according to your maths, we really do earn our term breaks as “time in lieu”. Did you factor in 20 days regular annual leave, like all salaried workers get in Australia?

    • Yes, I factored in the four weeks leave but not public holidays which for us usually fall on break times. I multiplied the working week by 48 so that is a year minus four week’s leave.

      Still I say don’t feel the need to justify breaks. Whenever I have non-teachers comment on it, I say, “Glorious isn’t it? Go to uni and become a teacher.”

      As to camps, I can see a legal case in injury claim in the future where the WHS branch of govt Ed departments will say teachers need to be rostered on for shifts at camp. It would make camps undoable. We couldn’t cover all the classes left st school, let alone send more to camp. It will be another way non-gov schools will be able to offer more extra-curric than gov schools. Unless it becomes a court or, hopefully not a coroner’s recommendation.

  4. I don’t work much overtime (long days) but I do work one evening a week (scheduled from 1-9 pm) and 1 Saturday in 4. When my library branch or library system has major events on my evenings or weekends off, I attend. When my local library is short-staffed, I can be called in. If I attend a conference that involves long days or travel – even if I am a presenter – I’m not given time in lieu. If anything major goes wrong, staff call me at home for advice. I usually check my work email once a day when I’m not working, and reply even on vacations. All of these things are not daily aggravations but it adds up to a climate of never being quite unplugged. I have accumulated 3 days worth of overtime for which I can take time off, but I have to schedule them myself before March 31, and it’s unlikely I’ll be able to clear my schedule so completely that I can take actual days off. Plus, a certain amount of my workload has to be done by colleagues in my absence, which makes their days tougher. I will probably end up taking the time as you mention, maybe arriving an hour late or leaving an hour early here and there. I wish you well!

    • It seems to be the case the first world over. Those with employment are working more hours than their job supposedly requires or is reimbursed for but there are many who can’t get work. To get my job done properly we could employ another of me!

      I wonder how we’d go in France where they appear much stricter on work hours?

  5. Very very interesting!

    It’ll be good to see how that goes for you! I was just talking hours with a colleague as we are also unionised. I often calculate it all down, but I don’t see the ‘value’ or ‘cost’ of answering calls on my day off, or emails, as I rationalise it’s one less thing for tomorrow, and it keeps the wheels moving. Having a ‘work’ phone means I can and do leave it at home – all those who report to me are paid for extra hours/calls, and I am not. But sometimes, the buck stops with me (or the approval!) All in all, I’m ok with the balance! But it’s an age thing too… cause, I’m still ‘climbing’ and making impressions. At 50-60 years old, my attitude is likely to be rather different!

    • Definitely my perspective has changed in different stages of life but I think mostly it is about the emotional impact of much that I deal with, including the ridiculous bureaucratic dictums.

      I have to protect my equilibrium.

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