Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Working-too-much Saga

To help with my GenCon Writer's Seminar planning, I made a list of the twelve seminars I most wanted to attend. Then I realized that I would miss nine of the twelve because I'm working. I also realized that I'm only available for two of the seminars with the guest of honor, Pat Rothfuss. I'm more than a bit grouchy about this.

For one thing, the Artsgarden is supposed to be shut down for the first two weeks of August -- no performances, no events. This conveniently (and, believe it or not, completely coincidentally) means I've usually got a flexible schedule for GenCon. But this year we've got eight shows in those two weeks, and we've got one every day of GenCon. So no shut-down time, and no free days for GenCon.

This is compounded by the fact that, right after my part-time tech guy quit in March, we got our budget cut. The easiest way to trim is to leave open positions vacant, so his job was eliminated. We also lost a part-time person at the info desk whose position was then eliminated, so I'm covering a lot of that time, too. I'm on salary, so I don't get paid extra for the extra 10 or 20 hours I work in a week. I also don't get days off; if there's a performance or event, I need to be there for it. There's no one else to cover. So I'm expected to be at the Artsgarden for all of the 400-ish performances and events we do in a year. There's just no way for me to have a fair schedule with that work load. Working seven days a week some weeks, even if one or two of them are short days, is just too much.

Honestly, I'd be better with the schedule if I were actually compensated for the extra work I do. I'm on salary, so the concept of overtime pay doesn't apply to me. I'm not sure from which philosophical framework I should approach this. If I work 60 hours in a week, I could view it as working for 2/3 of my standard rate, which drops my hourly rate down to just a few dollars more than minimum wage. Or, I could view it as working 40 hours for my standard wage, then volunteering for the next 20 hours. This option somehow feels better to me; I'd rather think of myself as volunteering than working for cheap.

A restaurant manager recently told me about their overtime pay: they get half time for overtime. If you're on straight time and you work 60 hours, you get paid for 60. If you get time and a half for hours over 40, 60 hours of work will earn you 70 hours of pay. They get half time for hours over 40, so if they work 60 hours, they get paid for 50. They're getting paid for less than the time they work, but for me even this would be a huge improvement.

The other hammer-blow with my schedule is that it cuts seriously into my writing time. When I have to work an extra 15 hours in a week, that time doesn't (ideally) come from my sleeping/showering/eating time, or my mandatory home/yard-maintenance time, or my spouse time -- it comes from that elusive, tiny chunk of "free time" I get in a week. This is the time pool from which my writing time and my reading time comes. And chopping 15 hours out of the Free Time pie leaves me with an impractically small amount of writing time. I've read an average of only two books a month since my schedule exploded, which is contributing to my surliness. And about half the time, I don't even get to write my daily 30-minute writing exercise, which is the absolute bare minimum for anyone who wants to write. And, even on some days when I've got a little time, it's not unusual for me to be too mentally or physically wiped out to use it; I just want to take a nap.

It's been over four months now, and my schedule is really starting to wear me down. I'd love to go back to my previously-mandated 40-hours-per-week limit. I sometimes worked more (occasionally, much much more -- my record was over 100 hours in a week, for which I was paid for 40), but it was comforting to know that my norm was a standard 40-hour work week. Now, my norm is whatever the schedule demands, which is a bare minimum of five days a week, more typically six or seven, with at least one day over 12 hours. If we were living in a different economy, I'd be job-hunting; I'd even take something that paid less, if it meant a less punishing schedule.

And, it occurs to me that I'm already working for less. By working 50 hours for 40 hours of pay, I'm essentially working for 80% of my normal rate. If I work 60 hours in a week, I'm down to 2/3 of my usual rate. If I could find a job that actually paid overtime, I could take a job that paid significantly less than my theoretical hourly rate now, work the same number of hours I do now, and come out ahead....

Okay, done venting and whining now. Back to the grindstone.


NerfSmuggler said...

Actually it's 57.1% of hourly instead of 66.6% if you put in 60hr weeks. It slides as you add more time.

Let's say you make $10/hr. I hope you make quite a bit more, but 10 is an easy number to work with.

$10/hr * 40hr/wk = $400/wk

If you work 60 hrs, that's 40 hrs plus 20 hrs at time and a half*:
($10/hr * 40hr/wk) + ($15/hr-ot * 20hr-ot/wk) = $700/wk
[optionally you can figure as (40hr-reg + 20hr-ot* 1.5 = 70hr/wk; $10/hr * 70hr/wk = $700/wk)]


Ouch! I've never put in 100 hours in a week, but 60 hour weeks happen from time to time in computer tech work too. It's just life; ideally you get some comp time later to make up, but not usually not.

My feeling is that if you are habitually putting in more than 10 extra hours a week (25%), then it's a sign of poor management or simple exploitation.

Alternately, our friend who is a film production accountant signs (admittedly lucrative) contracts where she and they are expecting 60hr weeks for the duration of filming on location.

IBM similarly expects all full-time employees to donate an additional 5 hours per week, but they generally pay a very competitive salary.

* - Let's assume that you don't get double time for working overtime on holidays or some such as would be true for union.

Jeff Mountjoy said...

Yah, I didn't figure overtime pay. Honestly, I've never had a job I can recall where I got overtime pay. I once worked for a school district as part-time TD for the theater. The "part time" was sometimes 0 hours a week, but occasionally 60 hours a week. And they did every dirty accounting trick they could think of to avoid overtime. They even did flexible week-endings; the work week was either Monday thru Sunday, Sunday thru Saturday, or even Friday thru Thursday, depending on which meant my long hours were divided up over two pay weeks.

One of the down sides of freelancing is that you don't get overtime for 80-hour weeks, if they're divided up over three different theaters. I did a long week last week, but some of it was for the Cabaret; it was probably a 45 at the Artsgarden, and a 15 at the Cabaret. But I just started the Cabaret shows, and they're infrequent. Most of my long weeks recently have been just the one job.

auntie 'm said...

Sounds like you are burning out fast. Spending that much time at work doesn't allow you to pursue your interests in other areas, both for lack of time and loss of energy. Hope you can work something out.