The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Would You Work for Unpaid Time?
Americans work a typical work week, which is about 40 hours per week, 8 hours per day, 52 weeks a year, usually with weekends off. Many jobs do offer some compensation in the form of paid vacations, paid time off, sick days, and holidays. Some jobs do not have any of these benefits, nor do they offer weekends off, but usually give their employees off at least two other days of the week, and there are some jobs that may have a person work 6 days a week, but schedule them for half a day two days a week in order to cover shifts. There are some jobs that require more hours from workers, leading to overtime, which can sometimes be a good thing, though it is not always worth it.
The American dream once was that you went to school, you graduated, you got your job, and that would be what you did for life to make your living. Life eventually changed for Americans and most workplaces required a college degree in order to hire someone, while others required very technical skills or years of experience in a particular field. Once college was complete, it was expected that the American graduate would find the job they loved, establish as a career, and continue to live the American dream. Unfortunately, for most Americans, this is hardly the reality, and many end up working dead-end jobs or jobs that they really do not like.
A college degree did give some hope to the American, opening up choices and opportunities to work in different fields, and to even get noticed on a job application, in which an employer is given an abundance of people from the labor pool to choose from. Most college graduates receive a “starting salary”, usually underpaid for what the average pay should be, but it is expected they will work their way up to a higher salary from years of experience with the company. Nowadays, however, most companies lay the employee off and the abundance of college graduates. This is debatable on whether an employer saves or loses money by having to hire and train a new employee, or just keeping the experienced employee and paying them slightly more money.
Most Americans that end up getting jobs and going to work become loyal to the companies they work for, more often than not settling for less than what the company should be paying. Most Americans that end up getting jobs and going to work also do not live around the corner from their jobs, having to drive no less than a half hour to work. This means that the worker ends up with an unpaid hour of going to and from work. By adding up the week, that is five hour a week that are completely unpaid. Showing up to work throughout the entire year costs the worker 260 unpaid hours.
Is this fair? Whose time is the employee on?
The argument could be that the employee volunteers to come to work, as agreed upon when the employee was hired, as an employer would most likely never supply a means of transportation, and many jobs require their workers to own and operate a vehicle. The employee sought out and looked for a job and it is not the company’s responsibility to worry about how far an employee lives from their job, only that they show up to work on time everyday.
On the other side of the argument could be that the employer has a good worker that shows up to work everyday and makes money for the company, and should supply some means of transportation or compensation for the employee showing up and doing their job.
No employer is obligated to pay their workers for driving to and from work and no employee has the right to actually ask. Employers could offer incentive in other ways such as an employee reward program for those employees who show up early or on time everyday and staying extra hours to work. Employees would feel more obligated and happier if a company were to give them recognition for their efforts. Employee recognition and compensation does not always have to be in the form of money, but paid time off, or an employee lunch, or a gift certificate.
There is another issue with hidden unpaid hours of work that every American worker who works overtime knows: Overtime is not worth it. As the saying goes, “The More You Make, the More They Take.“
Working more than 42 to 45 hours a week tends to disappear from the paycheck and goes directly to the government, so there really is no incentive to work overtime, other than to look good for the company or do the company “a favor”. If you work two jobs, you might notice just the same: Working two jobs hardly seems worth it, either, because it is almost like you are working for free. After all is said and done, when the taxes are taken out, you may make half the salary at your second job, whereas if that second job was your only job, you would make the whole salary.
There are some people that don’t mind working the extra hours, driving the extra hours to work, but for the rest…
If you want to get close to your dream job:
- Work close to home
- Work smarter, not harder
- Work no more than 40 hours a week
- Work a job that has good benefits and gives you vacation time or paid time off
- Work a job that has decent to good pay
- Work a job that you love
Matthew Gates is a freelance web designer and currently runs Confessions of the Professions.