I’ve been thinking a lot about work/life balance at the moment, mainly because I don’t seem to have any. True, I work in a fabulous job which pays fairly well, considering my lack of degree, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the way in which we have let work encroach on our lives in the battle for customer service.
I work in the call centre industry, thankfully, no longer as a call centre monkey chained to a desk and being forced to be nice to everyone, including arseholes. However, my lovely partner does all of the above, and what with my shifts and his shifts, sometimes all the time we get together is mumbled grizzling while we wait for the other to get out of bed/get into bed and sleep.
It’s not advertising, or romantic comedies that are degrading our family life, it’s work… Either you’ve got a job that you are slaving away to keep (given the current economic mess) or you don’t have a job and are stressing about that too. When I think that yes, I do spend about 8-10 hours a day at my job, it seems longer – because I’m not spending my downtime doing the things I want to do…
The funny thing is that most of the time, work/life balance initiatives are all about families… And I’m not a family. What I want is time with my partner, and time with my friends. I want time to see my friend’s exhibition, or their band play, or to go see that theatre show that I’ve been hanging out for. I don’t need childcare at work, although I understand and support the people that do.
So when did it become expected that unmarried people without children have less right to the same work/life balance? And how did the workplace insinuate itself so strongly into time that has been traditionally viewed as “downtime” that I am not compensated financially for working on weekends or late at night? What needs to change within the way business is done to find ways of giving people back their life?
The service industries, such as customer service and hospitality, get the hardest part of it… They are expected to work hours that no one else wants to, to service the needs of those who wish to use their services… And I do enjoy being able to go to the local pub or restarant on a Friday night, or on a public holiday. Absolutely!
But we need to start thinking about what that means for those who work in those industries. When you ring someone at 8:00pm, do you really need to call them then? If you need to report your credit card or phone stolen, then you should absolutely have the option to call anytime. But to question your bill? Prolly not.
We need to stop the corporate hoarding of private time. Extended opening hours mean that more people have to work odd hours. Which means they can’t do the things they want and spend time with the ones they love.