Years after being integrated into the so-called “shakai” or Japanese society, there is still one thing that baffles me to this day. It is the unwritten but generally accepted practice in the workplace to work past the specified number of working hours. The practice of zangyou, or overtime.

For me, extending beyond the working hours is NOT a reflection of how diligent you are, or how dedicated you are to your work. It is a sign of SLOPPINESS, because you are not efficiently making use of the full eight hours or so allotted for work. That should be ample time. That’s already 1/3 of your day allotted for work.

For some reason, people here seem to think that the longer they work on something, the better the results they will produce. It goes way back in school, I believe. I saw for myself how graduate students would sit at their desks the whole day, only to produce a one-paragraph abstract at the end of the day. It would have taken me an hour to work on it, so it was a real mystery to me why so much time was wasted on it.

For some people, time = effort, and so the longer you work on something, it means that more effort went into it. But if you were just staring blankly at your monitor for hours and not really doing anything, how could that be called work? Unfortunately,the quantity of ‘effort’ doesn’t always translate to the quality of work.

For some people, working to the point of exhaustion is the rule, not the exception. Work is not done until you’re literally dragging your feet away from the office, and finally arriving at home just to take an o-furo and then sleep. Well, I think it’s idiotic. You only have one body, and if you abuse it, someday it will get back at you. And as for those who have families, I think it is unfair to deprive your spouse and children of the quality time that they deserve. It is not surprising to see the breakdown of families here, because people do not know how to spend time efficiently at work, leaving little or no time for family.

In principle, I stick to the working hours and extend only when necessary. I am a full-time mother (and currently single parent) so I have to make use of my time in the most efficient way possible. I think it’s only fair, to put in exactly as much as what is demanded of my time at work, and to get a fair payment for that.

That’s a simple equation.

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