Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Burning the Midnight Oil

One of the tough parts of working in Japan is that it is so very easy to rationalize things based on the surrounding work culture. To be honest, I am not even sure it is a Japan-specific issue, it seems like it is similar elsewhere too.

One gets lulled into a sense of complacency.

'At least I only do 1.5~2 hours a day of overtime, other people are in the office until midnight'. (No matter that it adds up to an extra full day of work per week in total hours)

'If I stay a bit longer each evening maybe I can get it done' (No matter that I am in fact holding two positions which should both be full time)

'Oh cool, only 1 extra hour today!' (No matter that my manager looks confused at my departure)

Comparatively speaking, I must admit my situation is much better than many of my friends. Matcha-kun has had weeks in which he came home past 11:00pm every night. 

I hear tales on the train, regaled with a certain inexplicable measure of pride and exhaustion, of working 3 days straight with only naps under a desk to keep going. It is almost like some people are proud of the amount of overtime they do, of the time taken away from their family, outside interests and required REM hours.

My job has many incredibly interesting parts, and I realize that I have a degree of responsibility and free rein that are unusual for someone my age (especially female and especially in Japan), but the culture of overtime just seems so destructive. There are certainly times when you have to cope with emergencies and will need to put in the extra time, but expecting this to go on for months (years!) is not conductive to employee health and well-being. It is a bit of modern machismo I despise and yet have to submit to.

How does one change this? Do we just have to wait for all the 'my-job-is-my-life' dudes to retire? 


  1. I HATE HATE HATE the work culture here. I am lucky. My job is part time, so no one bats an eyelash when I leave early. However, my husband works until 10PM, sometimes 11PM or even midnight every night. He is so exhausted when he comes home. I hate to see this. What kills me is that if this were America, employees would get extra pay for overtime work. Here the culture is you work yourself to death (sometimes literally with all the sad sad suicides) but you don't have any extra yen to show for it. It's not right, and I hate it.

    1. Hi Khaleesi, that is terrible! I hope he can find a position that is less stressful(o_o)
      My company is at least decent, as we do get paid for overtime.

    2. Sadly, I don't think that will happen any time soon.