Posted by: kerrywills | August 24, 2012

Is the 40 hour week a thing of the past?


Everyone that I talk to these days is overwhelmed with work. It seems that people these days have more work then ever before and are spending more time at work. I suspect this is part of being in a slumping economy where…

  • There are layoffs and the work spreads to the people who remain at the companies
  • People can’t easily find other jobs (and if they do those jobs are probably just as busy)
  • Global competition and complexity of work has increased
  • Technology allows us to be ‘tethered’ to the office even when not at work (e.g. Blackberrys)

“Back in my day, sunny, we walked to school uphill both ways but only worked a 40 hour week….”

I have worked through a few other economic cycles but don’t remember them being this impactful on work/life balance. Therefore I propose the question “is the 40 hour work week a thing of the past?” Now I have worked solid 50 hour weeks for most of my professional career but in the last few years I have been averaging more around 70. But it is not just me – many people that I work with do too. Plus, I get e-mails all hours of the day and night so I know people are on later. It also seems that it has become expectations from senior management – I remember the days when people were asked if they could stay late and now a 5pm, 6pm or 7pm meeting is sent without regard.

I have to believe that others are seeing or experiencing the same trends so please let me know your thoughts on the trend. And you can reply after 5pm if you want to…

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Responses

  1. It’s unfortunate if this truly is a trend. Most productivity studies show that employees are ineffective after working a 10-hour work day (Laura Stack is a great person to follow on this subject). I think leaders need to take responsbility to ensure their employees have a work-life balance by critically assessing workload and staffing, as well as their own behavior. If the leader sends e-mails all hours of the night, employees feel they must be there to respond. Additionally, I think employees have a responsibility to protect their time. Building personal and family time into a daily schedule is essential to avoid burn-out (Forbes has a great article with tips on how to do this). Work-life balance is critical for employee engagement and therefore productivity. I hope this isn’t a picture of our future work week. Thanks for the post!


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