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  • Writer's pictureJanice Otremba

"We all have the same 24hrs"? I call B.S!

You know that saying, “Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day?” The one that implies, with the same amount of time each day, we all have the same opportunities?

Yeah, I call bullshit. Here’s why.

We may have all the same amount of minutes in a day, but how we spend that time can vary greatly. Nobody has equal opportunities, given social economics, geography, technology, gender, race and other factors. Not to mention, the cost of living is continuing to rise, wages remain stagnant and wealth inequality is deepening.

“You used to talk about the working poor. But it’s not just the working poor anymore. It’s the workforce,” John Peters, a research fellow at the Université de Montréal and author of Jobs With Inequality: Financialization, Post-Democracy, and Labour Market Deregulation in Canada, said in a January interview with TVO Today. “And more of that workforce is becoming low-wage; more and more of that workforce is becoming precarious and economically insecure.”

Depending on income levels, some people who work full-time may be earning a fraction of what those in higher roles or in different jobs earn. While they may be working the same eight hours in a day, their wages may differ substantially. Hell, some of us are working two or three jobs.

“The fact is that there’s a huge discrepancy between those who are making millions and the bottom half of the income bracket, 50 percent of (adult Canadians),” Peters said. “The median household income for those Canadians is less than $26,000 a year ... That’s even after taxes and transfers and benefits. That gap between the 50 percent of the population, roughly 8 million people or more, and that top 1 percent of earners, a very small slice of the working population, is huge. And it’s growing bigger.”

British Columbia recently introduced legislation in an effort to combat this gap or at least be more transparent about it. Under the law set to begin in phases in November, B.C. employers must include wage ranges on job applications; employers will not be allowed to punish employees who disclose their pay to co-workers or potential job applicants; and employers will gradually be required to publicly post reports on their gender pay gap.

Beyond wage discrepancies, there’s time discrepancies, however. A simple example is the life of a single parent. For some, who not only work eight-plus hours in a day, they also must commute, pick kids up from school, make lunch and dinner, do laundry, chauffeur kiddos to after-school activities, help with homework and put them to bed -- literally do life. For others, they may have a nanny, hire a cook, outsource laundry and have a driver. Yes, both single parents may have the same 24 hours in a day, but their experiences and how they’re using their time is radically different.

Take for example a prospective employee I just interviewed. My unicorn, who is leaving the current role, had a car with a 20-minute commute each way. A candidate doesn’t have access to a vehicle. It would take them an hour-plus via a bus each way just to get to work. That radically changes their experience, even if they have the same amount of hours as their predecessor.

Now some may argue, it’s an employee’s choice to commute via bus -- much like it’s a choice to become a parent and juggle all the extra work that comes with it. Having a vehicle or choosing not to have children means an employee has the freedom to do other things, like watch TV, take a walk, cook dinner or pay bills. But shouldn’t our workers be able to live lives outside of work the way they want to, in a way that is true to themselves?

Comparing clocks does a disservice to our wide array of employees and personalities. It upholds racial and economic privileges, it doesn’t acknowledge life’s realities and it prevents us from building a culture of belonging.

Yes, we all have 24 hours in a day, but that isn’t a constructive statement. Counting hours in a day doesn’t offer a solution.

So here’s mine: We must acknowledge the privileges some workers may have in their day-to-day life. While my employee may be hustling, willing and enthusiastic about an hours-long bus commute, as an employer, I need to be cognizant of their experience. As leaders, we must be more self-aware of our own privileges. We should recognize the positions our employees are in. Even for workers who hold the same roles, their commitment to work and life experiences are not mirrors of each other.

So, let’s throw the clock in the bin and set it ablaze. There’s no time to waste.

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