WORK + HEALTH
Working in corporate America and dealing with stress and pain
I could give many examples of previous jobs where this was the case. In particular, the example I’m thinking of took place in corporate America at a very stressful job I spent hours on the phone for. If you’ve read some of my previous work stories, you know which company I’m talking about. I was given a good amount of responsibility there because I was good at my job.
I’ve chosen not to include the name of the company here in case anyone from there ever sees it — I’ll say that it is a large telecommunications company in the United States. I would handle a ton of complaints from people about their bills most of the day. The environment was high-pressure and very stressful, and the actual in-job conditions were barely functional.
Overtime was readily available, especially to the higher-performing workers
Since I was in a higher position and a higher performer than most at the job, they regularly wanted to offer me overtime. Overtime was available to most, but there were certain restrictions on it. The company preferred giving it to me since I did well in my performance metrics. Overtime with someone leading in the company would be much better than with someone not, which would be detrimental to the company’s bottom line.
I would oblige sometimes, but a lot of times, I just wanted to work exactly my scheduled hours and then go home right when I was set to clock out. There were days when I could achieve this. If I had to get stuck on a call past my clock-out time, I would just consider that my assigned overtime.
The job was taking a major toll in many ways
The job was becoming stressful on my body and my mind. It’s very hard to take abuse all day and then function properly on my time off. I would be patient at work but often snap at my partner on my time off. It was hard to enjoy my leisure time and quality time in my relationship.
My body was taking a beating, too, because we didn’t have stand-up desks at work. I had to spend most of my days in a very uncomfortable chair. At one point, I grabbed a chair from the break room that was more sturdy than a lean-back computer chair with wheels. I wanted my back to be stable on a harder surface.
Human resources was no help, and I continued to struggle
I reached out to human resources to resolve this, and they told me that I had to get a note from my doctor to get a different chair, and they told me to put the break room chair back. It was the only chair that didn’t completely kill my back, knees, and legs.
At my previous location in my home state of California, I didn’t need to go through this nonsense. It was clear that I was in pain and suffering, and the desks there could adjust to stand up. I guess other states don’t have the same requirements for working conditions to be met, and you have to jump through more hoops.
The beginning of the end and taking “overtime” out of necessity
That was the beginning of the end of my career there. It was getting so bad over the years at that location that even though I was essential to the company, I started missing days. I missed regularly scheduled days. I had to take all sorts of paid and unpaid time to cover it. I even had to start applying for FMLA because it got so bad. I was missing days, sometimes weeks because my body couldn’t take the regular hours.
Despite all this, I was still offered tons of overtime, especially during busy times such as Apple’s new phone launches or during the holidays when the queues would be ridiculous. Calls would come in back to back to back. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. The complaints would get so ridiculous when it was busy that you just wanted to hang up on some people. I never did because I would’ve likely gotten fired for something like that, but I got close a few times. The mute button is your friend when you’re taking a call.
Because there would be weeks where I was missing big chunks of time due to my deteriorating condition in the less-than-ideal working conditions. I sometimes signed up for “overtime” to regain the lost hours I needed to get a regular paycheck. If I had to work over 40 hours, that was almost always a no-go.
I could barely make it through 40 hours as is, and I started to despise working there
I tried to push through and do it sometimes but was very limited in getting through a week like that. I felt that if I tried to do something like that, I’d be unable to walk for weeks afterward. There was a point in time when I was crawling to the bathroom because the pain got so bad.
I grew to despise this job very slowly as my career continued to decline. The decline became more rapid at the end to the point where I got spent. I developed so many health conditions from stress and various other things while working there. I haven’t worked for any other company since I worked for this one. I attribute most of that to not having my needs met and being force-fed a ton of overtime to try to milk as much performance out of me as they possibly could.
There were some positives to highlight
I do have a few positives to state working with this large company. I was the person to go to in extremely escalated situations since I had the knowledge, managerial experience, and proper attitude and positioning techniques to connect to most customers. It was nice having more power than I had in most previous positions.
I spent about four years with the company and was compensated well. They even paid for me to relocate when the call center I initially worked at closed in my home state. In the process, I moved to one of my favorite cities in North America. I wish I could continue just because I got paid so well, and it would help with my current financial situation.
I had a very calm and collected attitude most of the time. I rarely lost my cool, but when I did, it was usually just because I was sleep-deprived, stressed, in too much pain, and overworked. When I took that overtime, I started to notice my performance lag. My decision to not take overtime and go over 40 hours most weeks was in my best interest.
Takeaways and thinking back
If I could barely work the regular hours, the overtime hours weren’t worth the hassle. And in most weeks, overtime was just making up for regular time anyway. It was nice to have the overtime available so that I could make up for lost time or have the option to consider at least working over 40 hours a week.
In retrospect, if I could stay healthy and the job wasn’t as stressful, I’d likely still be able to work and remain working there. I might even be able to take the regular overtime hours and work over 40 hours when I can. Now, all of the call center jobs post-pandemic have moved to work-at-home.
I know I couldn’t even do that at this point, but if I had timed it right, I would’ve been able to do that while still healthy enough, and who knows what I’d be doing right now. My health should’ve been the top priority, but in the end, the company’s bottom line came into play, and I just gave it all I had until I could give no more, overtime or not.