Obviously on this blog, I don’t mention work directly very much as I like to keep work separate from life outside of the office. However there is one thing about work which I thought might be interesting to share and actually find out whether this is something specific to the company I work for or a general issue to South Africa.
What is the issue you ask? Well, it’s working hours in South Africa… Actually it’s not really working hours, but more how Fridays are seen. Now before I start my rant, I have to make clear that I come from an expat working environment where working hours doesn’t mean much and you are ‘obliged’ to stay until things get done, be it at 5pm or 11pm. Add to that, I worked a six day week, and if I was lucky, I would be able to leave early on a Saturday…
Due to the working schedule I was used to before, I was taken aback on my first Friday of this job, as from 3pm onwards the office seemed to gradually become empty bar a few souls (and myself). I found this odd, but assumed something was going on which I, being the newbie, was completely unaware of and assumed that this was not normal practice.
The following Friday, I already forgotten about what happened the previous week, when again, at around 3pm the office started emptying out, which made it clear this was not a one off. It was only then I remembered the only other time I’ve worked in corporate South Africa in 2011 when I was sent from Mozambique to try and sort out some issues in Johannesburg with some of our project suppliers.
I spent roughly a month and half in South Africa, but rarely in the office as I was driving around from factory to another, but when I did spend time in the office, I noticed that people left work quite early. When I asked the Project Manager I was working with the reason, he stated that usually people arrived early and left early (7am-4pm) in order to avoid traffic.
This reasoning made sense until the first Friday I spent in the office, when to my surprise the office was a ghost town after 2pm… I found this extremely odd, but as it had no impact on me, I simply forgot about it until now.
The more Fridays I worked I realized that people tended to knock-off on Friday in preparation for the weekend. I asked my wife if it was the same at her company, and her answer was no, however, she added that management was Italian and was very strict on working hours. Then after thinking about it, she told that a lot of the companies she works with close up shop from Friday 1pm onwards.
I spoke to another friend, who works for quite a big company and he too said that things finished off early on Friday for them too, to his annoyance when he deadlines.
To make things even worse, when I’ve made this comment to other people, the race card gets played and they claim only people of a certain colour take this attitude to work and Fridays. Personally I dispute this, as I’ve seen this attitude more from the people who point the fingers than the people they accuse.
Now, if there is someone who knows the reason why South Africans have taken the TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday!) feeling new level, please enlighten me as I find it really strange how one day of the week has almost disappeared into the weekend and everyone finds this normal.