(updated June 20, 2018)
A vacation is looming, but your work schedule deals with that poorly—there are things people need while you’re gone, most of them don’t have anyone else to do them. The obvious, and wrong, solution: work twice as long prior to the vacation in order to “get ahead,” and then check in regularly during vacation, putting in “just an hour or two” to keep things humming.
Put another way: if you work through four straight weekends in order to take a seven-day vacation, you know that’s nuts, right? The same thing applies if two 40-hour weeks become 60-hour weeks.
This isn’t about renegotiating commitments. This is honoring the negotiations already made. When you were given vacation time, and weekends, and a reasonable expectation that you’d be off the clock before bedtime most days, those were promises made to you. Requiring you to work an extra week’s worth of time to “pay back” for vacation is just as much a violation as you taking off a week without warning, for no reason, after you’ve used all your vacation.
The only people who should be volunteering such time are people with ownership stakes in their companies. Everyone else either gets compensated fairly for extra work, or has the right to turn down such demands. Getting neither is the definition of exploitation. It doesn’t make a difference that most of us are acculturated to this treatment.
You can consciously choose to make sacrifices, for whatever reasons you like. Just always do so deliberately, and make clear whenever possible that such a choice is not a guarantee it’ll happen next time.