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Working a Traditional Job Means You’re Legally on Call 24/7

by | May 22, 2023 | Startups

I was in nothing but my underpants.

My phone rang and I ran into the other room to answer it. It was freezing cold in the middle of a Melbourne winter. I couldn’t feel my legs.

“Yello, it’s Timbo.”

“There’s been an IT outage. We need to be on a team call in a few minutes. Open your laptop and log in.”

“I don’t give a sh*t what outage there has been. I work in sales and it’s Saturday. See ya Monday.”

On Monday morning my boss tells me I should have been on the call. I politely tell him the same message. I wasn’t hired to be IT support. I sell during business hours Monday — Friday.

The poor man knew he had no argument. At this point in my career I was halfway out the door. I was polite but I didn’t care too much for long hours or BS that didn’t contribute to my sales target.

My employer knew what they were getting: a gun for hire sales guy who could reach even the toughest prospect. A few months later I quit my job to work for myself. I didn’t go out in a blaze of glory.

Truthfully, I was scared out of my mind.

I wanted to keep my options open in case my solopreneur journey blew up and I had to cry my eyes out in front of my wife and beg an IT boss for a new job.

The point of this story: if you let them, your employer will take over your life.

Employment contracts rarely stipulate the hours to be worked. They’re left open-ended on purpose. I saw this firsthand when I dealt with hundreds of employment contracts in my short stint in recruiting.

If you have a job you’re legally on call 24/7.

Why it’s fine to cheat on your job with a side hustle

When I tweeted about this work hours reality a reader, Claudio, got upset.

Having a side hustle while you have a job is unethical.

He blasted me, such is the nature of the internet. Then I got an email from another reader, Ron.

He told me the story of a company he worked for during the bat virus of 2020. He had to work before and after his clock-in time. This extra time was unpaid. He told me the company was full of lemmings.

No one questioned this stupid rule. They just followed orders.

Ron got all high and mighty and took the matter to the department of labor. They circled back to the company and employees got a chance to say something.

Not one person admitted the truth. The complaint died.

Ron stayed for 4 months at this job and worked between 90 and 103 hours for free outside of work hours. He says “they stole my time.

The only solution he had was to move on and get a new job. But switching companies guarantees you nothing. You hope and pray the work hours are reasonable.

And often what happens is the work hours are great when you’re new. But at any stage the work hours can get out of control and there’s nothing you can do. Ron taught me an important rule of thumb:

If you’re not exempt in writing from working after hours or on weekends, you’re basically on call 24/7.

Read that again. That’s the reality no one talks about. At one company a leader told Ron “we own you.” He wasn’t joking. If a job goes away people instantly can’t pay their mortgage.

That’s powerful motivation to do as you’re told and work whatever hours you must to stay in the good books.

Employees defend their employers because it’s part of their DNA. We’re taught to respect our employer and think they’ll always do good.

Our parents our grandparents always told us if we get a degree, show up to a job, work whatever hours we need to, and follow orders then one day we can retire with a nice nest egg and get a pension.

Younger generations now see this as modern slavery.

How to quietly fight back and win the job war

(Without getting in trouble and while making extra cash.)

Modern outrage culture teaches us to rebel.

We should fight our employers or demand they agree to a maximum number of work hours. It ain’t gonna happen.

Corporations run the world. The solution isn’t to start fights and get angry. That gets you nowhere. That’s what a 5 year old would do.

It’s to cheat on your job with a side hustle. It’s to build your own thing and execute on a Plan B. It’s to find another way.

I recommend side hustles because they are paid projects you can work on at any time. They can be done from a laptop (even a work one) and most of the people you work with will never find out.

A job is a great place to start. It’s a good place to get some free learning. But at some point the lack of freedom will get to you. You won’t always want to work long hours or have your calendar outsourced to a boss.

If an employer can force you to work whenever then you can ethically cheat on your boss with a side hustle and not feel guilty.

It’s just business. And you are a one-person business, with a single customer, underneath that tough employee shell that’s waiting to be cracked.

Takeaway: work the long hours if you must. Just get the hell out of there by working on your own thing after hours. Use the situation as motivation instead of worrying about social justice retaliation.

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