When Work Almost Kills You
Monday, August 31, 2020
I think a lot of people misunderstand working from home. I'm here to share a story many of you may not realize about it.
I worked from home from 2013-2016 when I moved to Washington. When done right, working from home is great. With the proper management and time management skills you can still have a really productive day and be able to still enjoy life. Back then I would take lunch and if the weather was right I could take a nice brisk walk. Sure, I did work longer hours, but I wasn't doing anymore than 45-50 and that was absolutely max and only in emergencies. Working from home then was very enjoyable! My boss was ADAMANT about us not overworking and disconnecting every single day and weekends when not on call.
My job now is a completely different story. First and foremost, I am not lazy nor do I have "bad work ethic". I'm consistently and constantly praised for my work ethic. It is that same work ethic that is killing me. When COVID hit, my company first treated it like a joke. Like it wasn't real and why was I worried. Well I'm super high risk. Not just because I'm obese. I have lifelong severe chronic asthma (before I hear it, I was diagnosed at 6 and was skinny and extremely fit until 21). Here in the Seattle metro we were hard hit first. I got a letter from my pulmonologist the same day I was told I could work at home. They still acted like it was a joke. The CEO made hand sanitizer and social distancing jokes in meetings and everyone but me was still going into the office. I was ostracized for "worrying about nothing". Well then 3 weeks later they sent everyone home.
So a little backstory. I work in Healthcare. My company sells medical devices to health systems. I have a 15 year IT background with 8 of those in healthcare. My role was supposed to be one where I liased between the company's R&D and technical support. Some technical writing thrown in and maybe some light software tier 2 support. Yeah. That's not at all what I do. I am almost 100% percent tier 2 support. Now this wouldn't be too bad except I work with some of the worst tier 1 support humanity has ever seen. I could write another blog on how truly terrible they are. 4 people in my department have came and went because of them. For my team of 2 people, there are 9 of them, we have to spend all our time fixing what they can't, which is a lot so we are extremely behind. This became apparent about 2 months in. This was not going to be a 40 hour job. I figured well 45 was OK and maybe take off a couple hours early on Fridays when I'm not on call and that would be alright. Yeah. That hasn't worked out real well. From probably October - February 45 was the average. Max was 50. Then COVID hit.
Management in my department loves saying customers come before everything. When they say that, it's code for we don't care about how many hours you put in. Don't complain, don't ask for compensation, be glad you have a job. See if you are salaried and then pay you a certain amount, they can ask you to work as many hours as possible. Employment law presumes they will give those hours back to you as comp time or bonuses. It's how, unfairly, game studios get away with crunch. Well here at my job, they don't care. You aren't getting comp time nor are you getting a bonus. February's average was 50. Had a week of 55 and was not thrilled. Since being home since March, I've averaged 50 as well. Then, July and August came.
These last two months have been a horror show to be nice. I've averaged, AVERAGED a 55 hour week. I did 60 last week and have three 65 plus hour weeks. I want to do what is right by my customers. These are devices that alert clinicians to possibly life threatening issues. I want to make sure my customer's patients are OK. I do NOT think having to sacrifice my life is OK. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I should just shut up and be a good little girl and stop complaining. Then again, I know I'm not wrong. If COVID has taught us anything is that work/life balance is critical to our happiness as people. We have to have that distinction.
When companies that are prone to already overworking their employees get people to work remotely, they then expect you to be always on. When you throw in someone like myself that wants to the right thing, this becomes a massive issue. To add insult to injury, the company hacked my salary 10%. I'm now under what is considered exempt, but because it is considered "emporary they don't have to reclassify me as non-exempt and follow the laws around non-exempt employees and overtime. So I'm paid less for exponentially more hours.
This almost killed me.
A couple weeks ago I took a stand. I very clearly explained to my boss when I am not on call, I will not answer after hour calls. I will still gladly do 45 hours, but no more. If you want me after hours or weekends, you will be giving me those hours off. Period. If you don't like this, please feel free to fire/lay me off and you can reinvest my salary. My relationship is on the brink and without my partner, my life doesn't work. I need her more than this job. They have agreed and both my colleague and I are cutting back. I'm hoping this is the new norm. Sure, I'll still make sure my customers are helped, but we need help that balance.
I'm sure hoping this works and September doesn't kill me.