New overtime rules that go into effect next month are forcing newsrooms to do some much-needed soul-searching.
(I can speak with authority only about my own field, but I know these conversations are going on in many organizations, particularly nonprofits, which also pay relatively low salaries to passionate people who usually aren’t in it for the money.)
There’s been a lot of consternation about this change, from news managers and employees alike. There’s no doubt implementation will be painful at first, but if the next administration doesn’t reverse the new rules, I think they could begin to correct our society’s longstanding and extremely detrimental work-life IMbalance.
You’re at the airport waiting for your flight. Everyone is sitting semi-comfortably in the gate area, munching on fast food and staring at smart phones. The agent announces boarding will begin “soon,” and suddenly everyone gets up and forms a line. Your group probably won’t board for half an hour, but you just can’t bring yourself to stay seated, right?
What on earth does this have to do with vacations? Bear with me.
You’re working away in your newsroom. Your editor is on vacation at the beach with her family; she texts you about something she saw on Twitter that she wants you to follow up on. Your fellow reporter is on vacation visiting his grandparents; he forwards you an email press release with his idea for an angle. Two weeks later, you’re on vacation with your significant other. You promised yourself you’d unplug … but you feel like you really should check your work email and maybe Twitter and maybe just a peak at Reddit. After all, your colleagues did when they were on vacation, and just like at the airport, you fear what might happen if you don’t follow their lead.
Handing back part of your paycheck
As I see it, working on vacation is no less crazy than handing back part of your paycheck each month. You earned that vacation time just like you earned your pay – why on earth would you give any of it back?
The French are forcing us to think about that pesky work-life balance thing again. And bless them for it.
You may have seen this article from the Guardian making the rounds on social media recently. The initial headline suggested France had made it illegal to check work email after 6pm. Turns out, that’s not true – some companies and labor unions had just inked an agreement requiring about 200,000 contract workers not to work more than 13 hours a day, with work-related emails included in the definition of “work.”
I’m not reporting a story about this agreement, so I’m not delving into the details, but the very idea of legally restricted work email time captured many of our multi-tasking, smartphone-addicted, workaholic imaginations … or what’s left of them.
“My wife would love this, but it would decimate my newsroom.”
One of my public radio colleagues posted that comment on Facebook, along with a link to the original Guardian article. That’s so true of many newsrooms.