Thursday, January 08, 2015

Time

There are many things one should know about working in a Japanese company. One is that you must be willing to give up practically all your time, because that is what is expected of you.
Personally, that is the part I have been struggling most with, and it is not an easy feat to “get over it” and either “do what you’re supposed to do” or “stand up and fight the system”.

Of course, technically you are only supposed to give it 8 hours of your day (without counting the commute, which in Tokyo can take as long as 90 minutes, no sweat). And, if you stay longer, you are awarded with a little incentive and get paid extra. But there a few companies which do not pay if you stay overtime, and still I am not the first to arrive at work and I have never, ever been the last.
So, take my schedule, which is from 9 to 18 (one hour for lunch). And I’m fortunate that my commute is ridiculously short (about 30 minutes if I hurry), and I still feel glued to the chair at 18h and must stay a bit longer.
Sometimes until 18,30 (best days), most days until 19, sometimes until 20, seldom until 21 and only once until past 22.
And I am one of the people in the whole office who do less extra hours. The others get here hours before the official opening time starts and stay until they are forced to because their last train is about to leave.


When should I leave?

I have struggled a long time about this.

What should I do?

Should I give up my time in order to avoid this gnawing guilt every time I leave hurriedly to avoid stares? Or should I give up giving away my time and protecting it, defending it, drawing a line?
It is very, very hard to stand up, put away your things and say “
お先に、お疲れ様でした” time and time again. You get known (they don’t tell you, but it’s an office and men also gossip) as the one who leaves early, as the one who doesn’t do more than is expected, who doesn’t give more than is given. And that is a poor reputation in Japan, where staying overnight at the office is seen as ridiculous and stupid, but admirable.
People start thinking about you as “the girl who leaves as soon as possible” which starts to mean “the one who doesn’t really care about doing her work well” and “the one who doesn’t care about work at all”, and that is a dangerous place to be in.
Which is what I have been dreading since day one because I, honestly, on my honor, am not the kind of person who can give away, sacrifice, my time lightly. I am a dreamer, and for that I need my hours, my minutes, my seconds. 




So I wondered and pondered and thought, and I believe that by now I have accomplished a healthy balance (which might eventually stab me in the back, who knows). By leaving “early” I am letting them know that I have a personal life; but, during the day, I work like crazy. I make detailed reports and do the extra mile when asked a job, I sometimes go back to the office after we’ve all gone out to dinner just to complete my report and send it. Of course I could do it the next day, but why wait?
So that is how (I believe) I have let them know that I will stay, I will work passionately until my duty is over, until all my job is done, and I will leave the minute that has happened. It might be just after 18h, or it might be until after 21h, but I will do it. And I like to think they know and they understand.
I must say, though, that the people I work with are amazing.
I am not saying that they are drones who gave up their life for the company, most are not like that. They are funny, smart and understanding, and I am privileged to work with people who care about me and don’t judge me for doing what I do. In fact, they support it.
So that fear I talked about? It was real, it was tangible and it was overwhelming at times, but it was all in my head.

So my conclusion to this ramble (ramble, ramble, and ramble) is that you must find a way to communicate with your workmates, make them know you care about them, about your job and the company (therefore, their job) but draw a line. Maybe, who knows, they will follow!