Today is national ‘Work Your Proper Hours Day’ in the UK. It has become an annual Trades Union Congress (TUC) initiative to highlight that five million workers in the UK collectively donate an estimated £29 billion in unpaid overtime to their employers each year. For those of us working in the communications and PR industry, has there ever been a more important, or a less relevant initiative?
For sure, a healthy work life balance is important, and the principle is enshrined in the European Working Time directive which stipulates that we work no more than 48 hours per week, unless we choose as individuals to opt out. Everyone needs to recuperate and maintain domestic harmony. We also like to watch our team play on a Saturday.
Some in agencies will say that a billable hour is a billable hour, while others argue that as we endure the harshest economic environment in living memory, with headcount within agencies and in-house communications departments declining while workloads rise, free overtime is a necessary evil for career survival. The level of over-servicing within agencies is on the rise as they try to keep their remaining clients happy and their clients’ fees flowing. Many within in-house teams are on first name terms with 12 and 14 hour days.
Do you feel short changed? The vast majority of us get paid multiples of what a nurse gets paid, and they save lives. Our jobs see us travel the country and the world, dine is reasonable or better restaurants and drink wine with table service as perks. Many on the outside believe that we lead a charmed life in this trade.
I’ve made a few phone calls to friends in the industry today. Most of us, it seems, like our life this way. We’re grateful to operate in an always-on world where t’interweb and and mass media keep our fingers on the pulse. We like to be the first to know what’s happening and we love to share that when we do. Maybe we just like to be wanted or maybe it’s why we work in communications. Yes, we’ve been known to moan about it from time to time but we’d complain a lot more if the clocks were to change on us.
Personally, and like the people I spoke with today, we’d like to thank the TUC for raising the issue but feel just fine with our choice.