8 Weeks Unpaid: The Hours Stolen To Overtime During The Pandemic

While there's plenty to love about remote work — like running errands, spending more time with family and getting house chores done in breaks — there are certainly some downsides. Among the challenges presented by working from home, the etiquette around logging off is one of the trickier ones to navigate. Sure, we're likely to never want to return to a full-time physical office, but the absence of a commute can turn up the pressure to work beyond the standard 9-5.
Whether your workplace has been struggling or not, working overtime has felt like an employer expectation for many. And an extra half hour here and there is easy to give up when convinced it's for the sake of the business.
But as it turns out, that for all of our misguided loyalty, we're actually just missing out — by a lot. According to a new study by Future Work at the Australia Institute, the average person reportedly worked 6.13 hours of unpaid work each week in 2021, up from 5.25 in 2020, and 4.62 in 2019.
And if that doesn't sound like a lot to you, keep in mind that this equates to 319 hours per year, or over eight standard 38-hour workweeks.
To put that in income figures, that totals to around $125 billion of lost income in the past year — roughly $461.60 per fortnight.
Of those surveyed, 39% of workers reported that their employers were remotely monitoring them through technology like webcams and keystroke counters during the pandemic. Visibility has been a key concern for employers as we face forced remote work. And while performance levels shouldn't be expected to remain completely unchanged, monitoring software in any form can make workers feel uneasy or on edge.
"Arriving at work early, staying late, working through breaks, working nights and weekends, taking calls or emails out of hours — there are a host of ways employers steal time from their employees," explains Dan Nahum, an economist at the Centre for Future Work.
"COVID-19 has made the situation worse, indicating work-from-home does not necessarily improve work-life in favour of employees. Instead, we're seeing further incursion of work into people’s personal time and their privacy," he says. "In many cases, it's making it easier for employers to undercut minimum standards around hours, overtime, and penalty rates."
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