Would you be willing to work without receiving a paycheck? I’m not talking about volunteering a weekend with Habitat for Humanity, or helping out with your church. Most people are willing to volunteer for a good cause. Would you be willing to work at your normal day job without compensation?
In an effort to save money, British Airways recently offered workers the opportunity to take one to four weeks of unpaid leave, with the option to continue working during the period of unpaid leave. (Note: BA is not requiring workers to take leave or work without pay).
It is not unheard of for companies to offer or require employees to take unpaid leave (last winter my company required non-chargeable support staff to take vacation days between Christmas and New Year). But it is much less common for companies to solicit voluntary unpaid leave, and say “by the way, we know you won’t be receiving a paycheck for the next couple weeks, but would you like to come to work anyway?”
Would you work without pay?
The knee jerk reaction to this type of question is “hell no!” And that is an understandable reaction. But this question does not always have an easy answer. There have been many stories in recent months of workers taking voluntary pay cuts or volunteering to work off the clock for a short time period to help companies save funds and prevent layoffs.
There are many factors I would consider before I would work for free. I would be much more inclined to volunteer my hours without pay if I worked for a small business that was struggling due to a poor economy, and not due to mismanagement. I would be less inclined to work for free for a large corporation that was trying to appease shareholders because they were losing money.
Could you afford it? It’s a hard to ignore the fact that your paycheck would be lower or non-existent the next time it rolls around. Not many people can afford to go without their regular paycheck once, much less up to a month. How long could you go without a paycheck?
Corporate culture and peer pressure play a large role. It could be difficult to look my peers in the eye if each of them volunteered to work and I refused. Rightly or wrongly, these kind of things are remembered and could affect how you are treated in the future, or even affect your performance reviews (though that would never be stated as the reason for a poor review).
How far would you go for your company?
What about unpaid leave and no work? Thankfully, this question hasn’t come up where I work. But if it did, I would be more inclined to take voluntary unpaid leave and stay at home with my family. I don’t feel like there is ever enough time off as it is, so it would be worth trading a week’s pay for a week of family time. But unless it meant the possible fall of the company and everyone did it, I don’t think I could bring myself to take a week or more of unpaid leave and still go in to work (note: I work for a large corporation; my answer would probably differ if I worked for a smaller company).
What would you do?