The Insidious Culture of Non-Mandatory Overtime

If you work in IT, you are probably familiar with the concept of non-mandatory overtime. Simply put, non-mandatory overtime (NMOT) is an effect of the corporate / professional culture climate where the standard workweek begins at 50-60 hours.

In most companies, OT is either mandatory or not – for salaried employees, this typically means some late nights during crunch time, or perhaps dealing with a weekend emergency from time to time.

However, in recent years, especially in IT, NMOT has become the norm. IT workers and other salaried professionals are informally expected to put in NMOT on a regular basis.

This contrasts greatly with expectations of the non-professional salaried employees, like finance, marketing, or clerical staff. While these employees enjoy 40 hour weeks, even a lowliest IT drone typically matches the executive workload of 60 hours a week.

To illustrate that, if an IT employee makes 60k and works 60 hours a week, his hourly wage is just below $20. Contrast that to an exec with salary in the 100k+ range, plus bonuses, working 60 hours a week

Why is this the norm? A few reasons:

* Many IT employees have terrible productivity.
Many IT people spend vast amounts of time chatting and surfing the web. They need to use a 12-hour day to justify their 8 hours of pay. Senior managers don’t notice or don’t care, and think they actually are working.

* Many IT employees are on flex time.
If you arrive at 7 and leave at 5, the only thing the boss sees is you leaving at 5. If you arrive at 10AM and stay till 8 PM, you’re a hard worker, and you’re the last car in the lot. The boss has no idea who got in when, because often, the boss gets in after the lot is already full.

* IT workloads are heavy
After the bust in tech, most of us are doing the work of 3 people. This leads to unmanageable workloads, and hence, OT. After a while, senior management sees that the place hasn’t fallen apart, so they just keep it as it is.

* IT people don’t know how to command respect in an organization
Face it, of all the people in the company, the smelly, hairy guy is not the one Biff Worthington is gonna listen to.

What are the consequences of NMOT for our society? For fathers & mothers it could mean the destruction of their family. For the young, it means the stifling of their social life. It’s all made worse by the constant promotion of NMOT as a desirable ‘American value’.

I’ve always tried hard to maintain a healthy work-life balance, but like any eager up-n-comer, I sometimes get into fits of work which can last days or weeks. These spells are gold to my employer, they are icing on a very productive cake. But to expect this, to think that it can be reproduced endlessley, is madness.

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