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Overworked -- and angry about it

By Nicole C. Wong
San Jose Mercury News

AS THE BOUNDARIES between office hours and off hours continue to blur, 
one in three American employees report being chronically overworked, 
according to a survey released Tuesday.

Slightly more workers forfeit some of their paid vacation time -- and 
two in five work while on vacation -- in part because they can't escape 
their demanding jobs.

Overwork in America, a 54-page report issued by the non-profit Families 
and Work Institute, underscores the irony that the very factors giving 
companies a competitive edge and healthy bottom line -- technology, 
multitasking and globalization -- may be undermining their workers' 
physical and emotional well-being.

``Technology has made staying in touch instantly much more available. 
That creates the expectation of an instant response,'' said Ellen 
Galinsky, president of the New York research institute. ``How many times 
have you seen people at parties with their BlackBerry? Or sitting in 
church with their BlackBerry?''

And you can bet they're often answering work e-mails.

The study, based on phone interviews with 1,003 U.S. wage and salaried 
employees in October and November, shows that one in three workers is in 
contact with co-workers, supervisors, customers or clients at least once 
a week outside normal business hours.

A year and a half ago, when Albert So was principal engineer at a 
Mountain View-based game developer that had at most 15 employees, he 
routinely skipped dinner and didn't get home in time to tuck his newborn 
son into bed.

His boss called him at home on nights and weekends, urging him to drop 
what he was doing -- including his father's birthday celebration -- and 
fix a glitch. He didn't have to leave the house but said ``that hid the 

Skipping vacation

And So never took advantage of his 15 annual vacation days ``because 
nobody else did.''

The 33-year-old is happier now that he works elsewhere. But others 
remain miserable. Employees who toil without enough down time to rest 
and recover make more mistakes, exhibit poorer health and show more 
symptoms of clinical depression, the study stated.

Also, 39 percent of intensely overworked employees say they are angry at 
their employers for expecting so much of them, vs. only 1 percent of 
employees who have low levels of overwork. And 34 percent of extremely 
overworked employees often resent their co-workers who don't work as 
hard, compared with 12 percent of employees at low levels of overwork.

While the percentage of people who feel overworked hasn't changed since 
the institute conducted its initial study in 2001, Galinsky said, the 
reasons people give for why work environments feel stressful have 
shifted. While workers have more flexibility with their schedules, their 
bosses also demand more of them, particularly to compensate for recent 

Santa Clara County employers have slashed about 200,000 jobs since the 
height of the dot-com boom five years ago.

Galinsky said: ``People who have experienced job insecurity and people 
who've seen a lot of downsizing are more likely to be highly 
overworked'' -- 42 percent of employees at companies where payrolls have 
been pinched vs. 27 percent of those where head count hasn't slipped.

While rank-and-file employees may not have much choice, executives may 
also succumb to work overload -- although they may deny it.

100 hours a week

Rand Morimoto, president of Convergent Computing, spends more than 100 
hours a week bolstering the image of his Oakland-based Internet security 
company, which has 65 employees. Even though he receives 30 vacation 
days a year, he uses only five of them -- for Christmas and a few other 
special occasions.

``The tough part about vacation is I work twice as many hours before I 
leave on vacation to prepare to go,'' he said. ``And then when I get 
back, I work twice as many hours to catch up.''

Despite Morimoto's non-stop schedule, he doesn't consider himself 

``I work for myself, and I choose to work as hard as I do,'' he said. 
``In this economy, you've got to work hard to keep your job.

``I choose to work my butt off.''

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