I was chatting with a colleague who works for city government last week about - what else? - the Great Recession and how it's hitting us all. When I asked about furloughs, she pointed to a coworker typing away at another desk. "She's working her furlough day today."
A friend who's a state employee had to sign a document promising not to work on her furlough days. She's had to work them anyway, sometimes when her boss schedules her for meetings on those days. She tells of coworkers shaming others for not working on their furlough days.
A little googling shows this isn't at all uncommon. The NYT wrote about the phenomenon of employees working their furlough days back in June. Bloggers who also happen to be furloughed professors have written about what it means if faculty take the burden of less pay without passing on the pain to students and staff.
One California employee of the Department of Motor Vehicles put it this way:
It's not doing what it was designed to do. We were imagining three-day weekends. There was some optimism. It was a trade-off for sure, but people were O.K. The mood now, I would say, is down. People are working in fear because they don't know what's going to happen next.
Which makes this eHow article about how to use your furlough days wisely seem even more absurd. Maybe you really could take a part-time job or grow veggies to replace lost income if you didn't actually have to work on your furlough days.
What does it mean that we're asking workers to take pay cuts but refusing to call them exactly what they are? For one thing, it prevents us from addressing the very real economic problems we're facing.
If there is too much work to be done to let people actually take their furlough days, what does it tell us about the amount of work being done by American workers these days? Have we pushed productivity to the breaking point?
Are you working on your furlough days? Why or why not? What does this mean for you?
Photo source: Sacramento Bee