How Many Days are You Working for Free?

When I am wearing my corporate employee hat, I am an evangelist for doing radical things like — taking lunch and leaving on time. While that may sound like heresy in today’s corporate treadmill, it is the only way to maintain your well being and be optimally productive. A few jobs ago I worked for a subsidiary of a French owned multi-national. While the French were busy drinking wine at lunch and working 35 hours a week with 6 + weeks of vacation, the American contingent was working 24/7 and growing bags under their eyes that would fit into any horror flick.

That’s why my eyes were drawn to the Fast Company website today when I saw their post entitled “Work Your Proper Hours!”.It seems the British have a holiday on February 24th to mark the day most Britons who do unpaid overtime finish the free days they give their company, and finally start earning for themselves.

My guess is that in the US, that holiday would fall sometime in May or so (what, us? take a holiday? that’s a sign of weakness in our warped society!). But, that’s just my hunch, not a researched and scientific number.

The UK site even has a calculator that you can use to calculate when you finish giving away your time to your employer for free. While it is calculated in British pounds, the math works just the same. Make sure you’re sitting down before getting the results if you’re anything like the “typical” employee or business owner. I plugged in the hours that some of my co-workers who almost never take lunch and refuse to go home at a normal time put in. According to the calculator, they work for free until April 14th of each year. And, that doesn’t even factor in the amount Uncle Sam takes in a myriad of taxes, many which as lesbians in a long term relationship you’ll never see (think: social security for surviving spouse).

You can actually take this little calculation one step further to get the true cost of earning your wage. In the highly recommended book by Joe Dominguez, “Your Money or Your Life” , he talks about a concept called “life-energy-cost”. This calculation takes into account not only the hours you work, but also all the time spent preparing for, traveling to, or thinking (worrying, stressing, complaining, etc.) about work. It also factors in the cost of purchases you make because your job is stressful – anything from special treats you buy to dampen the misery associated with a bad job to extra medical costs incurred because of the toll of a high stress job. After factoring in all these ancillary things, you arrive at what wage you are REALLY earning. For example, you may earn $20/hour in your day job, but by the time you factor all this in, you’re really earning $7/hr. It is a great measure of life energy and allows you to reflect upon your relationship with money from an entirely different, much more conscious perspective.

How much of your life-energy are you giving away for free?

I’d love to hear your comments, even if you prefer to keep them anonymous.

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