Many Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) clients are insistent that they can only see me after 6pm. Our first phone call contains some negotiation where I encourage them to consider that, since they’re experiencing workplace stress, they might want to make use of the 5 or 6 weeks of counselling to take a small period of legitimate time for themselves away from work.
Most clients welcome that and are able to get an hour or so for therapy during normal working hours to themselves. Some clients are less comfortable about telling their boss that they’re in counselling and so we meet after 6pm.
Then there’s another group of clients who begins work around 7.30am and cannot possibly get off work until 7pm and so can only meet me after 8pm. We have a chat about how realistic that is and what kind of service they imagine they’ll get from someone who’s worked an 11-hour day and then I offer to pass them on to a colleague.
During the banking collapse I spent some time in a drop-in counselling service in the City. The City is full to bursting with people who work long hours for no significant reason. I heard an awful lot of reasons – not excuses – why people feel they have to work ludicrously hard:
I’ll be blunt: this is macho nonsense. It’s abusive macho nonsense. If that doesn’t bother you too much, then what about: it’s inefficient and unproductive macho nonsense.
What does a therapist know about how business works? That’s a fair question. But Chris Roebuck of Cass Business School also holds this view:
“It is staggering to think that the financial sector is working on the basis of a completely out-dated and inaccurate measure of staff performance that is counterproductive for both staff and the organisations they serve. It should not be down to the number of hours you work, but your quality and efficiency of output.”
From time to time we all need to work long hours to complete a piece of work, but not all the time. Take a look at this article:
“Some people work hard to pay rent, to put food on the table, because they enjoy it, or — in rare cases — because the job really demands it. But what about everyone else, those who earn more than they need and still run themselves ragged, often working to the point of misery?”
It’s called ‘Mindless Accumulation,’ a phenomenon that’s been compared with obesity. Some people, albeit unconsciously, equate having stuff with being a good person. There’s merit in being not just a taxpayer but a Hard Working taxpayer. Working Hard ™ is part of that good old Protestant Work Ethic where sloth is a deadly sin, the devil makes work for idle hands, and “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat,” a Bronze Age philosophy that we have embraced at enormous cost to the Hard Working Tax Payer for some years now.
If you work endless overtime to run two cars because you and your partner are employed in different places; if you work long hours to pay for incredibly expensive childcare; if you find yourself exhausted at the end of 45 hour week because you have to pay commuter fares; if you work to buy spa days or minibreaks to help you relax; if you come to realise that you believe your BMW, affluent address and Church shoes makes you a better person than someone without those things, then your reasoning might need some attention.
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