Steve’s up in Toronto this week working at the home base for his company. He has been ordered to return home with a suitcase of Coffee Crisps. I think he’s enjoying the quiet time in the hotel after work. He may not return home. We may have to consciously uncouple.
In addition to the discovery of poutine, Steve was amazed that his Canadian counterparts left the office at 5:00. Here in New York City, the same workers stay at their desk for another couple of hours.
Working 12-hour days for many New York City professionals is do-able, because many have simply decided to not have children and, therefore, don’t have to relocate to far-off suburbs. They live a short distance from work and don’t have a second shift at home. If you combine your income with a spouse’s full time income, you can afford a very nice lifestyle with dinners in the West Village and two-week vacations to Brasil.
Rebecca Rosen has a nice piece in the Atlantic about over-worked Americans. I love a good compare and contrast of international public policies:
Other countries limit work hours by law (the European Union’s Working Time Directive, for instance) to both keep workers from being exploited, burned out or, in the case of Germany in particular, to keep unemployment low by spreading out work hours among more workers. Other countries also value refreshed workers and family and leisure time, and have paid leave policies when children are born, fostered, or adopted, in addition to sick time. They have paid vacation policies of as much as 30 days. In Denmark, every parent gets two “nurture days” per child until the child is eight, in order to make it to parent-teacher conferences, the school play, etc.—things that in this country, many white collar workers guiltily slink out under the radar to rush to, and working class people risk getting fired to do. In the UK, within the first year that they implemented a “Right to Request” flexible work hours (which give employees the right to put together a plan for how to get their work done in a flexible way and employers could only turn them down if they could show it would hurt the business bottom line) more than one million families requested such schedules and business kept humming right along.
In the United States, we have no such policies. We value work. We work among the most extreme hours, behind only Japan and South Korea. Our divided political system has yet to figure out what the proper role of government should even be, and we hate taxes. Ironically, the OECD has done studies that have found that the U.S. spends about as much as Sweden on health and welfare—it’s just that they pool their money to pay for everyone, and in the U.S., it all comes out of private pockets.