Work Philosophy
September 7, 2004 10:58 AM   Subscribe

Philosophy of Work – Let’s say you have the option of getting paid more for handling the same workload, or getting paid the same, but working fewer hours? [Contract renegotiation time inside.]

It's contract evaluation time for a friend™ and he has been offered one of the following options: an increase in pay or less work for his current pay. Currently, he has to work 180 hours per month to remain salaried, which amounts to 18 10-hour shifts per month. In that light, he has been offered more money to work those same 180 hours, or the option to keep his current salary and only work 170 hours per month (which translates into 1 fewer day a month).

(Note: I'm more interested in the discussion of this topic and hearing others' perspectives as it relates to themselves instead of approaching this more selfishly as "What should he do!!??", but here is more qualifying information about the friend should anyone care to know more...)

10-hours a month relief doesn't look like much on paper, but in this friend's reality, it would make a noticeable difference. It's extremely fast-paced medical work (emergency room), which has shift work in rotations, rarely in consecutive time slots (one day will be 8PM-6AM, the next 3PM-1AM). Having the relief of one fewer day to work a month would be nice (not a huge difference, but noticeable). FWIW: this friend is currently burned out more than I've ever seen him over the past 8 years.

At the same time, this concludes the first year of gainful employment since he graduated from medical school last spring. Though there aren't any plans to leave the employer, a higher salary might give him more salary negotiation leverage if he moved elsewhere (though realistically, probably not). On top of all of this, most of his income is going to the mortgage of the house he bought this year. Having a little bit of extra money in his paycheck would definitely feel more rewarding every month.

And then... there's vacation. For next year, he will receive 4 additional days (12 total). If you factor in the 12 fewer days he'll have to work in Option A, that's like 16 fewer days he'll have to work total. But at the same time... more money.

Give/Take – how would you feel about the tradeoffs?
posted by Hankins to Work & Money (12 answers total)
a higher salary might give him more salary negotiation leverage if he moved elsewhere (though realistically, probably not)

In my mind, this question is (almost) everything. What is the "norm" for ER residents? Is it 180 or 170? If the former, there's an inherent danger in a future employer asking why you are working something less than full time. Or even worse, why you moved from working X hours to working X-10 hours. You want to make the next job transition as "clean" as possible. And, of course, you want your next salary to be higher.
posted by PrinceValium at 11:08 AM on September 7, 2004

On the other hand, does the friend have a significant other children, or dog who would prefer to see him more? Is one day a month enough to make a difference to them?
posted by bonehead at 11:22 AM on September 7, 2004

It's all about quality of life. I'd take less hours at the same pay anyday over more $. He's being offered 120 hours more hours off per year! Basically, he'll get over two weeks more of vacation time then he does presently. I wouldn't worry about negotiating his next salary; He can cross that bridge later.
posted by Juicylicious at 11:28 AM on September 7, 2004

as a public interest attorney, i am significantly underpaid (in terms of what the market pays attorneys of my experience x hours of work in a week with y pages of written product produced at the end of a month, i make about 1/3 what people in the private sector from a similarly-ranked law school make). there are a number of significant benefits, however, to working in a PI place instead of a corporate mill, almost all related to quality of life both at work and at home. if i were offered the same salary for an extra two weeks off, i'd take it over more money for less time off.

the work i do is very satisfying, but enormously taxing. i'd like to still enjoy it five years from now. more money might keep me doing it, but more time away from work will keep me able to enjoy the work itself.

(for what it's worth, i don't think either decision will significantly impact his ability to move to the next job when the time is right for that)
posted by crush-onastick at 11:36 AM on September 7, 2004

I'd like to say take the same pay/less hours option but I believe that your friend will effectively end up taking a pay cut. I've accepted a similar offer in the past and what happened was that on paper I'd work less hours but in practice I ended up working the same hours (and eventually even more). But hey, it was a bargain for my employer.

Before accepting this type of offer again I'd make sure I'd understand how this was going to work. In my situation there was a certain amount of work that needed to be done and that work would take a certain amount of time, there was really no possibility of working faster. So I'd have to know who was volunteering to work the extra hours or who was going to be hired. Your friend may be in the same boat. Emergency rooms need coverage regardless of what your employment contract states.
posted by substrate at 11:42 AM on September 7, 2004

this friend is currently burned out more than I've ever seen him over the past 8 years.

This is all I would need to know, personally. When you're burned out -- and I speak from personal experience here -- you cannot simply "push through it". That's your body's way of telling you that you need a rest. If you don't listen, it'll punish you for it; physically and emotionally. Plus, it's almost impossible to do good work when you're burned out, past a point.

I'd take the extra time, no question. If your friend does this, everything else will sort itself out. If he doesn't, he may be heading towards a disasterous crash.
posted by gd779 at 11:58 AM on September 7, 2004

If I were already at the end of my rope, I would be initially inclined to take the extra time off. But, considering what it means -- only one more day off a month -- maybe it's not such a great deal. On a yearly basis, that sounds great, but if I were required to work 170 hours each month, that doesn't really add up to an extra day of accrued "vacation" per month. It's worthless when you're working shifts, except as relaxation time (which Your Friend™ might value more than I).

Assuming that my family situation were acceptable -- that is, the number of hours worked are not, in and of themselves, a problem -- I would take the pay raise and find some way to decompress. Exercise, music, extreme ironing. Whatever floated my boat. Missing one shift a month might not be as useful as some extra scratch (but if hours are figured on a yearly basis, meaning an extra 12 days vacation, I would take that in a heartbeat).
posted by uncleozzy at 12:09 PM on September 7, 2004

I don't see how having 13 days off each 31-day month is all that different from 14 days off. The difference there does not seem large enough to really impact the amount of time he has to recharge.

I think it should boil down to: What could he do with an extra day off each month? What could he do with the extra $$$?
posted by Coffeemate at 12:27 PM on September 7, 2004

In a situation like that, it's probably only worth it to take the extra day off if you can pick when it is. If it's just a matter of saying "we'll put you on the board for 170," but the choice of time off isn't schedulable, the value of the additional 10 hours off is fairly minimal. On the other hand, if you can regularly have the shift off adjacent to other time off, making a three or four day "weekend" out of it, it might be worth it.

Otherwise, a day here and a day there, once a month, will probably just turn into a spare TCOB day rather than actual relaxation.

That said, if I were given the option to choose between a pay raise and 12 extra days off per year, I'd take the time off. But then, I'm salaried against 40 hour weeks, and I do a more or less normal M-F/9-5 plus on-call work.
posted by majick at 1:22 PM on September 7, 2004

Having spent a few years of my young working life on rotating shifts, I can tell you that this will probably be the main contributor to the burnout of your friend in no time flat. I find it curious that an employer in the medical field does not realize (or possibly doesn't care) about this, what with all of the studies out there regarding shift work. Is this standard for this field?

I doubt that the one extra day a month will make much of a difference working this type of schedule. There are things you can do to help your body tolerate the changes better like limiting caffeine and alcohol. In the end some folks can deal with this better than others, and your body knows what it has to do to survive. Unfortunately this can lead to errors if your body says "sleep" but your job doesn't
posted by SteveInMaine at 1:51 PM on September 7, 2004

Um, not to be all kinds of crass, but how much more money? I'm confused about his job, too -- is he a resident? You said that he's one year out of med school, but salary negotiations and shift requirements are very different in a residency program from the those in the outside world.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 4:04 PM on September 7, 2004

Unless I really wasn't getting by on my current salary (which sounds familiar, actually), I'd take the time off. Unless he's one of them doctors without borders, I reckon there's a decent chance the financial picture will work itself out over the next few years; will the not-losing-his-shit picture do the same?
posted by willpie at 5:32 PM on September 7, 2004

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