Overworked -- and angry about it
TECHNOLOGY KEEPS EMPLOYEES TETHERED, REPORT FINDS
By Nicole C. Wong
San Jose Mercury News
AS THE BOUNDARIES between office hours and off hours continue to blur,
one in three American employees report being chronically overworked,
according to a survey released Tuesday.
Slightly more workers forfeit some of their paid vacation time -- and
two in five work while on vacation -- in part because they can't escape
their demanding jobs.
Overwork in America, a 54-page report issued by the non-profit Families
and Work Institute, underscores the irony that the very factors giving
companies a competitive edge and healthy bottom line -- technology,
multitasking and globalization -- may be undermining their workers'
physical and emotional well-being.
``Technology has made staying in touch instantly much more available.
That creates the expectation of an instant response,'' said Ellen
Galinsky, president of the New York research institute. ``How many times
have you seen people at parties with their BlackBerry? Or sitting in
church with their BlackBerry?''
And you can bet they're often answering work e-mails.
The study, based on phone interviews with 1,003 U.S. wage and salaried
employees in October and November, shows that one in three workers is in
contact with co-workers, supervisors, customers or clients at least once
a week outside normal business hours.
A year and a half ago, when Albert So was principal engineer at a
Mountain View-based game developer that had at most 15 employees, he
routinely skipped dinner and didn't get home in time to tuck his newborn
son into bed.
His boss called him at home on nights and weekends, urging him to drop
what he was doing -- including his father's birthday celebration -- and
fix a glitch. He didn't have to leave the house but said ``that hid the
And So never took advantage of his 15 annual vacation days ``because
nobody else did.''
The 33-year-old is happier now that he works elsewhere. But others
remain miserable. Employees who toil without enough down time to rest
and recover make more mistakes, exhibit poorer health and show more
symptoms of clinical depression, the study stated.
Also, 39 percent of intensely overworked employees say they are angry at
their employers for expecting so much of them, vs. only 1 percent of
employees who have low levels of overwork. And 34 percent of extremely
overworked employees often resent their co-workers who don't work as
hard, compared with 12 percent of employees at low levels of overwork.
While the percentage of people who feel overworked hasn't changed since
the institute conducted its initial study in 2001, Galinsky said, the
reasons people give for why work environments feel stressful have
shifted. While workers have more flexibility with their schedules, their
bosses also demand more of them, particularly to compensate for recent
Santa Clara County employers have slashed about 200,000 jobs since the
height of the dot-com boom five years ago.
Galinsky said: ``People who have experienced job insecurity and people
who've seen a lot of downsizing are more likely to be highly
overworked'' -- 42 percent of employees at companies where payrolls have
been pinched vs. 27 percent of those where head count hasn't slipped.
While rank-and-file employees may not have much choice, executives may
also succumb to work overload -- although they may deny it.
100 hours a week
Rand Morimoto, president of Convergent Computing, spends more than 100
hours a week bolstering the image of his Oakland-based Internet security
company, which has 65 employees. Even though he receives 30 vacation
days a year, he uses only five of them -- for Christmas and a few other
``The tough part about vacation is I work twice as many hours before I
leave on vacation to prepare to go,'' he said. ``And then when I get
back, I work twice as many hours to catch up.''
Despite Morimoto's non-stop schedule, he doesn't consider himself
``I work for myself, and I choose to work as hard as I do,'' he said.
``In this economy, you've got to work hard to keep your job.
``I choose to work my butt off.''