Belfast Telegraph

These crazy work hours will be the death of us

By Robert McNeill

I'm quite lucky. I rarely work after 3pm and, if want to nip out for a walk or some yoga, I do. My own boss, d'you see? Alas, all coins have two sides. So, I start work at 8 and don't take lunch till after work.

Until recently, every fortnight I worked a six-day week, and I rarely get holidays.

But I can live with it. Alas, a poor lad from Germany couldn't live with his work as an intern at an investment bank in London. The job killed him. At the age of 21.

According to friends, he'd worked till 6am three days in a row. Why? It was an investment bank. The work was socially useless.

But, presumably, the end-desire was filthy lucre.

A ludicrous salary some time in the future for work that all right-thinking people despise.

One intern told a London paper: "About 100 hours a week was the minimum and the average was probably about 110. I worked six-and-a-half-days a week."

Another spoke of "every intern's worst nightmare", the so-called Magic Roundabout, "which is when you get a taxi to drive you home at 7am and then it waits for you while you shower and change, and then takes you back to the office".

You hear a lot about the work-life balance.

It's one of these subjects that, the more its importance is stressed, the less it is put into practice.

Work is nuts. Who devised 9-5 and the eight-hour day? Why eight? It's too many.

Fine when the factory was at the end of the road. Not so fine commuting. Part-time work is the ideal to which society should strive. Work would be shared out better, apart from anything else.

The Scandinavian countries, which do everything right and are generally 33.6 years ahead of the rest of us, work fewer hours than other developed countries.

I remember a party of Danes coming round a newsroom where I worked.

We thought the long hours macho, they thought them bonkers. They were right. We live in an employer's world. How I long for a return of the unions having "too much power".

A lot of loopy things went on, but the bosses couldn't boot us up the butt the way that they do now.

The tragedy is the way employees persuade themselves to bust a gut for companies that barely know their name and never thank them.

Why would anyone do that? Presumably, the intern wanted to be noticed and to be offered a job when he was done.

Personally, I'd employ only mellow people. At interviews I'd ask: "How hard are you willing to work for me?"

Applicant: "I'll work every hour I can as hard as I can."

Me: "I see. What a pity. Well, I wish you luck in your search for such work."

I used to work all the hours God sends for employers, and now consider it to have been a waste of the prime of my life.

Not all of it. Some decent journalism came out of it – the fish prices here, an amusing photo-caption there – and it probably helped me get ahead.

But, generally speaking, I didn't get where I am today by working.

Besides, my occupation is writing. I'd hate to actually work.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph