Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Overtime: Are Teachers The Only Ones?

Teachers’ workload: two words bound to get any teacher on their soapbox. Articles abound on the issue. The DfE even challenged us about it (does anyone else find the use of the word ‘challenge’ strange?) I don’t need to tell you, the hardworking teacher, that the workload is great and I think even the stereotype of ‘Teachers. Huh! Cushy number; working 9-3.30!’ has died a death; even the non-teaching public know now that teachers don’t just work a. 37.5 hour week.

Evenings. Weekends. Holidays. Some of us work them all. Overtime pay? Not a chance. Lack of free time, family time, fun. Many a teacher has experienced this. But are we alone? I mean, are those memes that suggest teachers are the only ones working at home in the evening actually accurate? Well, there have been studies: its official! Teachers work more than any other profession!

However, I know some pretty hard working folk who aren't teachers and I decided to ask a few of them about their working hours. I asked them their role, contracted hours and overtime (either paid or unpaid). Here’s what I discovered:

Many of the workers I asked are contracted at around 40 hours, similar to teachers. Many of them said that they work around 20 hours extra, unpaid, on top of their contracted hours. Workers who answered in this manner included a Director of a water company, a Vice President of a manufacturing firm, an Associate Director of a political consultancy, an Enterprise Architect for a publishing company, an IT Consultant, an HR Business Partner in a telecoms company, an IT Architect in a small data consultancy and a Senior Finance Manager for a construction Services company. If my friends are representative of workers in those industries then that’s quite a lot of people around the world working similar hours to teachers without being paid overtime. Some of those I asked reported that working around 90 hours per week is sometimes necessary.

What about working from home? The IT Architect said “for me there is little to distinguish work and home. Holidays increasingly are measured on broadband quality. I don't think I really ever switch off from thinking about work.Echoing the sentiments of others, the Finance Manager remarked “My phone is on 24/7 and I'm expected to check email at all hours.” A number of those I spoke to revealed that they did extra work at home, others did not say whether their 20 hours of overtime was done in the office or at home. The Vice President stated “I'm always working: nights, weekends, vacations! I have found the saying "It's tough at the top" to be very true.”

Another major finding was that travel takes up more time on top of extra hours for non-teachers. Whether it’s being ‘at work’ 24/7 on foreign business trips away from family or sandwiching a week’s hotel stay with 15 hours of UK-wide driving, this is something most teachers don’t have to deal with.

It may be noted that those I spoke to all hold fairly senior positions and are likely to be paid well.  I didn’t ask for salary details simply because those who compare the workload of teachers to that of other professions never compare salary either. My anecdotal evidence is in direct reply to the blanket statements of ‘no-one works as hard as teachers’. Well they do. There are many men and women all over the country up late working, arriving at the office early to get an extra hour in, missing out on time with their children, spending every waking hour replying to emails, going on ‘holiday’ with a project to complete. Teachers are amongst those people but they do not have a monopoly on these characteristics.

One of my friends concluded: “It appears most people really enjoy the work they do and they do what is needed to be successful! I'm feeling lucky to enjoy what I do and that I have fun doing it!If you really are in teaching because you are passionate about it and you love working with the children, then surely this is the attitude to have. Imagining that you are the only one still up at 11pm preparing for the next day will not change the fact that teaching is a hard job with many demands and pressures. Knowing that everything you do can have a positive impact on the lives of others can make all the hard work worthwhile. Counting yourself as one of the many workers around the world who goes the extra mile for no reward could begin to take the edge off the pain you feel.

And if you are still up at 11pm preparing for tomorrow, perhaps you’d benefit from reading up on maintaining a good work/life balance. Although the pressures are high and the workload is heavy, I believe there are things we can all do to address the balance. Might I suggest you begin with a couple of my own blog posts?
Photo Credit: thatbookkeeper via Compfight cc

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