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Opinion: How working unpaid hours became a regular thing 

Himika Akram reporter  

The concept of working unpaid hours has become an unsettling norm in many businesses around the world. The distinction between work and personal life is becoming increasingly hazy in many positions, even though it is not formally required nor acknowledged. Then how did this become a practice in our modern lives?  

The development of technology is one of the main reasons working unpaid hours has become a need for the job. The lines separating business and personal life are becoming increasingly brittle due to the widespread use of cell phones and continuous contact. Workers frequently read their work-related emails on the weekends, at odd hours, and even on vacation. This “always-on” mentality has made it commonplace to believe that our lives should revolve around our work. 

This trend has also been influenced by the growth of the big economy and the popularity of contract labor. Since many independent contractors, freelancers, gig workers are not covered by the standard work regulations, they are more susceptible to mistreatment and underpayment. They frequently put in extra time without getting paid to maintain client connections and get new contracts. 

There might be severe repercussions from working unpaid hours for both people and society. Individuals experience burnout, stress, and a decline in work-life balance. These behaviors may have adverse effects on one’s physical and emotional well-being, sour interpersonal connections, and lead to a reduction in job satisfaction.  

Accepting unpaid office hours negatively affects society. An unjust power imbalance between employers and employees when workers accept this as a necessary element of their job. It goes against the ideas of compensation and deference to the time and labor of employees.  Additionally, as businesses might not perceive the need to invest in their workers when they are already receiving extra, unpaid labor, unpaid overtime might result in wage stagnation.  

It is imperative to address the normalization of unpaid hours for multiple reasons. It is mostly an issue of fair compensation and worker rights. Workers should be appreciated for their time and rewarded fairly for the work they do. People who work longer hours without getting paid foster an environment of exploitation.  Also, this kind of normalization enhances income disparity. People who are unable to work for free are at a disadvantage because they might not be able to participate in unpaid labor, which could cause them to miss opportunities or promotions. This worsens workplace inequalities and makes it much more difficult for marginalized groups to advance in their professions.  

So, how to combat this normalization of unpaid working hours? Reforms in the laws and regulations should come first, which will also cover independent contract workers, freelancers, and gig workers. Businesses should set forth explicit guidelines and standards for overtime and working hours. A climate at work that is more positive can be achieved by encouraging a good work-life balance and avoiding unpaid overtime. Most importantly, as individuals, we also need to speak up for ourselves and demand pay for the time and labor we put in. In fact, employees have more prominent roles to play when it comes to setting limits and communicating expectations for work hours. It is time to question the disturbing norms that reestablish the value of time as something that matters.  

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