Nine to Five or Forever?

The Infinite Hours Allocated to Work

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Statistics show that people’s job can contribute to workaholism, insomnia and divorce.

What constitutes work in your world?

Your job?

Housework?

Spending time with your family?

Is spending time with your partner work to you?

Everyone’s idea of work is different, so work hours vary, depending on your perspective.

If you see work as what you are paid to do, then work is your nine to five job, but if you see work as anything you feel obligated or forced to do, then work can be a number of aspects of your life.

I once overheard a friend of ours talk about how he could not go out with my partner because he had to babysit his child. Let me repeat that: babysit his own child. The act of babysitting is a service and the role of parenting is not a job, but a lifelong commitment. I was very confused with the use of the term babysitting, but I deferred that this man sees childcare as a job, and more specifically his wife’s job and he was doing her a favour by volunteering his unpaid time to babysit his child. It made me feel sad for him and pity his wife.

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Do you consider date night with your partner work?

I sometimes schedule it in and put reminders in my calendar to book the restaurant, dry-clean the outfit I want to wear or allocate the money the event will cost, but usually, the event in itself is enjoyable. Sometimes though, it does feel a bit like work.

On days, when work was super stressful, I am burnt out or have under slept, the idea of having to social and be ‘on’ for dinner and a movie just seems exhausting.

I rise above the exhaustion because it is truly a commitment to continue to enhance and improve my relationship, something which personally ignites me and makes me better in all other aspects of my life.

Is there some society you know that doesn’t run on greed?

What are you willing to sacrifice for work?

Time with your family?

Exercise and healthy eating?

Hobbies and personal interest?

Regular appointments with physicians?

Healthy sleep and time away from the office?

Vacation days?

I remember when I was in throws of a new job a (former) friend of mine made a joke that I had no hobbies. I was furious; I wanted to wring her neck because she hit my Achilles heel so hard that I almost fell over. I did not have any hobbies; I was addicted to my job and progress.

I am willing to sacrifice a fair bit for work, or give it a higher priority on the scale of life, but it is because I really do value and enjoy what I do.

I enjoy being challenged, writing reports and researching interesting topics, but I have scaled back the hours invested to the act of work.

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I use to see work as the be all end all, but I am not viewing it from that vantage point anymore. I call in sick, take personal days and vacation days when I need them and I no longer feel the anxiety bubble up when I do.

I know friends who are unwilling to not have their phone on them at all times. They are in real estate or business and they claim that they must always ‘be on.’ That sounds fair to me, I understand that, but this is a large sacrifice of your freedom for finances.

To always be on means that, at all times, some amount of your attention or energy is on alert for the next call, text, alert or whatever and you are not fully on the task, person or environment you are currently meant to be experiencing.

Always being ‘on’ means never being fully engaged in the moment and if you are living like that, I hope you have one hell of a paycheck to compensate for your half life.

We tend to segment our lives into time where we are ‘forced’ to be doing an activity and free time, where we are able to be our true selves.

Our true selves seems to be a person who eats bad food, drinks too much, gossips, and binge watches Netflix shows. Is this our true selves or a coping mechanism for the capitalist structure we are melded to for forty hours of the week? I do not think our true self is a reflection of what we do on the weekends because I think somewhere along the line, we forgot who we are, without the nine to five struggle, so we are simply trying to regain the energy to get through another work week on the weekends.

How does your idea of work shape your identity?

‘What do you do for a living?’ is probably one of the first things you ask someone you meet. Our professions are a huge part of our identity and we tend to determine an individual’s worth based on their profession, which is a status determiner in society.

This is a commonality because we dedicate so much of our fruitful time to the act of working. Our best years and the best hours of each day are dedicated to the service of work. On average, we spend over 90,000 hours of our life at work. We might spend a lot of time physically at our workplace, but studies show that the average worker spends just two hours and twenty-three minutes actually working in a day.

I find these numbers scary and honestly, probably true. What these numbers tell me is that most of us hate our jobs and do not enjoy being there. As someone who tends to work eight to nine hours a day, usually forgoing my lunch, unless I have something scheduled, I am part of a minority group and not the majority.

I still do complain about my job, to fit in.

Just like I use to puff on cigarettes with the cool girls at break in high school, even though it made me want to throw up after, I pretend to hate my job to have friendships in the workplace. Hating your job or lamenting about your job helps you bond with others and those relationships are vital; you need to feel connected others and sometimes we lie to keep said connections.

If so much of who we are is composed by what we do, why are so many people pissing their days away at work? Are we seriously scrolling social media for the majority of our work days? I find that hard to believe and hard not to believe.

What we do for a living seems to help us understand our rank in society, but not our self worth.

If our self esteem did come from our jobs, then most of us would not be on Facebook all day, we would be busy doing our job and challenging ourselves.

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If social media is a screenshot of the parts of us that we love the most, most of the images captured are from the hours outside of the work day. Images of beaches, cute outfits, fun meals and drinks on drinks on drinks; the images reflect the things our jobs allow us the privilege to indulge on. The fact that most people are just trying to get through the day shows me that the image of our job is much more important than our personal ability in said job.

Like so many other things, the visual of our job is more important than if it brings us joy. We will stay in a shitty job because it makes us look good because we care more about how we look than how we feel.

Why do people stay in jobs that suck?

We have bills to pay baby! Most people work because the mortgage ain’t going to pay itself. Most people stay in shitty jobs because they do not have the stamina, after the forty hour work week to pound the online pavement to apply for other opportunities, putting themselves out there, for the scrutiny of others.

Many people fear change and the known evil is so much safer than the unknown. I have seen loved ones stay in jobs for years and decades that they do not enjoy or even slightly appreciate, just because it pays the bills.

Really? I have been rejected by more than two dozen jobs and those are the ones I received an interview, not the jobs, where I applied and received absolutely nothing from the hiring committee; if I included those, my rejections are in the high hundreds.

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Fear is the number one life stunting factor in most of our choices.

Fear is why people stay in shitty jobs, marriages, cities, houses, and friendships. Fear makes us complacent and once you hit complacency, the years will trudge onwards, time will pass, but you will stay exactly where you are, but hey, at least your bills are paid, right?

Paid work versus unpaid work, is there a value difference?

Do you consider cleaning your house ‘work’? Does it bring you joy? Do you do it out of your own personal want or because you ‘have to’ or to keep your partner off your back?

What is the difference between being paid to do a job and doing an unpaid job? Does the pleasure from one or the other differ? Does our feelings of self worth vary, dependent on the fiscal flow or lack thereof?

Many people seem to discount the amount of time and energy it takes to run a household.

Throwing in a load of laundry, doing the dishes and making the bed may not seem like a big deal to you, if you are not doing it, but it does require time management and organization skills.

I know many people who do not lift a finger at home and it blows my mind, especially when both individuals work outside of the house. Household chores are nothing to scoff at, they take up a lot of time and are a nonstop Ferris wheel of needs.

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The other thing with unpaid work is that it takes up a lot of limited space in the brain.

To-do lists, schedules, booking appointments, managing the finances, buying groceries, carpooling, it might all look like insignificant stuff, but it takes energy and brain power to organize all this stuff with your life and work.

If only one person is in charge of the unpaid work in your house, they are mentally taking on a much larger burden than the other and this is unfair. Unpaid work is much harder than paid work in the very fact that there is very little to no recognition for it, so everyone should be lifting their weight.

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What is work/life balance?

87% of people have no passion for their jobs, so can there be a work/life balance? If you hate or dislike what you do, for the majority of your day, does it really matter how wonderful the rest of your day is? It might, but that sounds exhausting.

I see work/life balance, for someone who strongly dislikes their job, as someone being imprisoned, by choice, for eight hours a day. Does it really matter that you get a few hours of freedom each night, when you know you are going back to prison tomorrow?

Work/life balance is like the Atkins diet; it is something we are selling to whoever will buy into it, but in a few years or a decade, we will cringe that we bought into the idea at all.

How much time do you spend at work versus preparing, thinking, planning and stressing about work?

Think about it. How long does it take you to get ready for work? All of the time: making your lunch, getting dressed, managing to get out of your house, dropping off your children at childcare and commuting to work, that is all a part of the structure of work.

You wake up each morning and usually, one of your first thoughts of the day is going to work or considering if you can get out of work, with a somewhat believable excuse. As you stand in the shower, you wonder what you will wear to work. As you get dressed, you check your schedule, to verify your first meeting of the day. All of this is happening, all this energy is being expended and you are not even physically at work yet.

The power of capitalism, is that work grips every aspect of our day, even on our days off.

We spend a shitload of our day thinking, prepping and then unwinding from our work days.

It is a crazy amount of time and almost everything we do revolves around being successful employees.

Think about it; you have a mental breakdown at work. Your employer and your benefits package support you, so that you can take time off, go to therapy and (maybe) get on medication. All of this is to support you getting just good enough to get back to work. It is not to ensure that you are the best version of yourself, nope, it is to make sure you will not lose your shit at work and manage.

Work does not start when we enter the office, it starts when it enters our mind, so how much of your day, pre-work, are you thinking about work? How much of your day, post-work, are you thinking about work?

The better question to ask yourself is when are you not thinking about work?

The more of our world we allow work to consume the larger its appetite will become.

How much money do you spend to work?

This one makes me think. How much money are we spending just to work? How much money do you spend getting to work and back? Do you pay for parking? How much does your monthly gas set you back?

Can you relate to this narrative: Running late for work today, so you grab a coffee at the nearby coffee shop, three dollars. Had a bad meeting with your supervisor, so you treat yourself to lunch out, to complain about your boss with a colleague, fifteen dollars. Afternoon slump, so you grab a sweet treat to tide yourself over until the end of day, five dollars and on the drive home from work, you grab a bottle of wine and some take-out because it is Wednesday and dammit, you deserve it, forty dollars.

Holy crap! You just spent sixty three dollars on a bullshit, no big deal, average to hell Wednesday! No wonder you cannot pay down your debt. Obviously you cannot quit your job and chase your dreams. To top it all off, it is now Thursday and have to do it all over again, but hungover.

On average, yearly, we spend about $3300 getting to work, being at work and preparing for work. Consider childcare on top of this, if you are a parent, and the number gets staggeringly high.

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Are we working to pay for being at work?

That just does not seem right to me….but what is the other option? Is there another option?

We spend so much money preparing and decompressing from work that I really do believe that if we spent a fraction of said time finding a job, which brought us more joy, we would not have to burn so much money, just trying to cope with work until Friday.

Work and life or work with life?

Capitalism is not the most idyllic state to be functioning under, but nonetheless, it is the one we are controlled by. The secret is that there is no secret, but there needs to be hope and optimism. You can find a role which you feel inspired in, you can find a niche where you feel empowered, you can work with a supervisor who respects you and have colleagues who support you, but you must be willing to get out of your comfort zone and face the fear of the unknown.

Stay where you are and be sure of a shitty, but bearable existence or seek out new opportunities and risk the shitty safety for the unknown potential of tomorrow.

Written by

I write about issues that are near and dear to my heart, with the hope that my stories, experiences, and struggles may empower others: amanlitt.ca

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