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Go home on time for once

19 September 2013

Georgina Morris, joint MoC Yorkshire Weekly Newspaper Group chapel.

When the clock reaches 5.30pm next Wednesday, I'll be turning off my laptop and inviting my workmates to join me in the pub over the road for a drink. I won't be telling them that they can leave me to lock up. I've just got a quick email to send or an article to finish off. Oh no, I won't be long. It'll just take a few minutes…

I'll be joining colleagues throughout the NUJ and workers across the UK who are taking part in Go Home on Time Day - and encouraging everyone in my office to do the same.

I'm sure there will be some people out there who baulk at the idea of a journalist who thinks they can work 9am to 5.30pm. Nobody signs up to our job expecting that - but it doesn't mean we should sacrifice our family time and social lives without question either.

Like the other reporters on my paper, I regularly give up evenings to cover town council meetings, public meetings about hospital service changes or am dram productions. And if there's a breaking story, I'm happy to pitch in and help out in any way I can.

It's those extra few minutes every day which bother me. They're nearly always spent on replying to emails that could wait, or finishing off an article when there's nobody on the news desk to read it until tomorrow anyway. There's no time back or recognition for it. It would seem petty to write down every ten minutes you stop late in diary as time owed in lieu. But those few minutes every day can soon add up.

Let's assume you work 7.5 hours five days a week, and take 25 days holiday and eight days off for public holidays per year. By stopping late for just 10 minutes every day, you're giving up the equivalent of five working days every year. If your boss asked you to work a whole week unpaid, would you do it? I certainly hope not.

But how many of us are doing just that and a whole lot more without even realising it? How many of us are taking work home, checking emails over the weekend or tweeting from work accounts when we're away from the office?

Technology is making it easier than ever for us to work anywhere - and also harder to switch off. The savage job cuts and recruitment freezes that have hit our industry in recent years have left fewer staff than ever to carry out ever increasing amounts of work.

It's no wonder many feel like there's not enough hours in the day and we need to work late just to keep on top of things. But the longer we work and the more tired we get, the slower we get anything done and the more likely we are to make mistakes.

The issue of unrecognised overtime is one that NUJ members in my workplace keep coming up against - and we've never completely resolved it. We say we're understaffed and working too many hours as a result - management say nobody is telling us to do extra. It's not easy to just get up and walk out when there's fewer of us, just as much work to be done and deadlines are looming. If only a few get up and go, other colleagues bear the burden.

But letting things continue as they are simply isn't an option any more.

Doing so is only likely to pave the way for more job cuts, greater demands on our time and higher rates of work-related stress.

It's going to take all of us acting together - and if it's just one day for now then that would be a start.

Tags: , long hours, campaigns, work-life balance, pay and conditions