Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I Owe, I Owe, It’s off to Work I Go

(Image thanks to www.crazy-jokes.com)

There's a great blog series going on called THE WORKPLACE SURVIVAL DIALOG. This is my contribution to that interesting subject. Check it out and feel free to add your own! :)

Well I was planning on writing a daring and often dramatic article about the workplace and how work ethics have drastically dropped over the last few days, but I got a bit bogged down with strange and unnecessary statistics which, while amusing, did not really back up my entire strongly worded thesis. So I’m going to play it “cool” and just discuss the issue lightly and see what happens. Hopefully if I ask a question it will intrigue you all enough to add your own thoughts and experiences because I imagine most of you can relate. So here goes: How often do you take a personal day from work? I know I said I wouldn’t bog this article down with statistics, but these few were just too good to resist. Thank you to Statistics Canada.

Warning: For all you fellow workaholics out there, these statistics may shock and appall you.

Estimates from the Labour Force Survey show that both the incidence and the number of days lost for personal reasons (illness or disability, and personal or family responsibilities) have shown a rising trend since 1997. Several factors have contributed: notably, an aging workforce; the growing share of women in the workforce, especially mothers with young children; high worker stress; and more generous sick- and family-related leave benefits.

Full-time employees in the public sector (more likely unionized or female) lost more work time in 2006 for personal reasons (about 13 days on average) than their private-sector counterparts (8.8 days).

So what does this say about our society? I think it’s interesting that although Statistics Canada lists “high worker stress” as a factor for missing work, they also note that our society has a “more generous sick- and family-related leave benefits.” So we attempt to pacify our stress-induced work environment with additional benefits to make it seem less terrible. When I was in Greece last spring, it was hard not to notice the unbelievably laid-back work environment. People there are more likely to show up late, close early and take a long, long lunch break then us in North America. Granted their country is not nearly as “successful” as the U.S., but hey, they’ve been around longer than pretty much anyone else, so really, maybe they’ve got something right after all.

Here in North America we work long days, we don’t have siesta like other countries and we carry our cell phones around like trophies. We try to fit way too much into a day and we convince ourselves that if we don’t have the most amount of money then we’re doing something wrong. Every now and then we flip right out and need a few “personal days” to regain ourselves and start it all over again. Oh and just as an additional little joy, we also have higher instances of allergies and stress-related illnesses than other countries. What is the point?

I personally believe that MORE people would take LESS personal days if work wasn’t so much of a chore… if we had long siestas and just met everyone at 3PM at the local pub for a drink… if the focus was truly on family and people instead of on products and finances. I think we could encourage productivity while supporting a sense of community.

I’m proud to say that I love my job, but it’s not my entire world. I think that half the reason why I love it is because I feel at home here. I stay after work for drinks, I come in early for breakfast and I consider my co-workers friends. What’s great about it is that I learn more because of the sense of community than I would in a huge company where I would just fade into the background. I’m a copywriter, but I’ve picked up HTML and some design tricks and even SEO. I think you learn best from watching other people and from asking questions and building relationships. It’s something we all need to learn from the Greeks.

What do you think about the differences between the two cultures? Do you think we have personal days because we’re burned out and have too much to do in a day, or is the rise from something else? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Drop me a note.

-Kate

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