IT Employment

Bring back the 40-hour work week

While it looks good to be the first to arrive and the last to leave work each day, it turns out that putting in 60 hours of work each week may do more harm than good in achieving end results.

In today’s ever-increasingly cutthroat work environment, a common notion among employees and bosses alike tends to be, “he who works latest works best.” And while it seems that the 40-hour work week has been largely dispensed with in our hardworking culture, new studies show that working more very seldom produces better results. Employees work many more hours now than they have in the past, but it’s coming at the expense of health, happiness, and even productivity. While it looks good to be the first to arrive and the last to leave work each day, it turns out that putting in 60 hours of work each week may do more harm than good in achieving end results. This infographic examines some of the lesser-known statistics regarding overtime work and its effects, and through it one thing becomes extremely clear: To boost productivity and foster excellent employees, the best thing businesses can do is to bring back the 40-hour work week.

Bring Back the 40 Hour Work Week Infographic

Source: OnlineMBA.com

About

Gina Smith is a NYT best-selling author of iWOZ, the biography of Steve Wozniak. She is a vet tech journalist and chief of the geek tech site, aNewDomain.net.

49 comments
David G. Hendrickson
David G. Hendrickson

Someone asked, "What else is going on?" Well, C level executives are responsible to the board and stockholders who want more MONEY. So, everything they can do to maximize profit going to C-level execs, board members, and stockholders, not your paycheck. On the other hand, too many employees spend too much time at work NOT WORKING. They have coffee time, break time, chat time, birthday party time, outside smoking time, catching up on gossip, and such like. At some point they might actually perform some work. Usually, this is like when they were in school; party until just before that paper is due or the test day is near, then cram/slam to get it done.

ffulton
ffulton

Imagine how it could reduce the unemployment rate.

thealco
thealco

Without reading all of the comments, I am sure some people would share my opinion that the balance is met by gauging output and not working hours. There are many ways to merge, shape and change your working week and really at the end of the day it is up to the employees intelligence to get the work done in the most efficient manner. Personally, I never force my staff to work 60 hour weeks however I have a good understanding of how long things should generally take with a slight buffer. If they are inefficient, slow and procrastinate they will be working 60 hour weeks however if they are smart and efficient, they can almost cut the workload in half. Efforts should be incentivised according to individuals values whether be cash, holiday or gifts. This would only work of the manager is capable of steering the team in the right direction with the right focus in mind of course. There are slight trends when extra effort \ hours are required but only if necessary. Quickly skim comments re work and fun - no one said you cannot have fun what you do. If you're not having fun, you're either in the wrong industry or in a company \ work for a manager that doesn't suit you.

rocky49152
rocky49152

I've actually attempted these longer work weeks when I had goals to meet for learning additional skills or when acquiescing a new system, but guess what, after hitting the 9th hour, the brain starts to shut down. Over a period of days, the impact is cumulative as a person simply becomes less and less sharp and effective at doing their job. Working a 60 hour work week is simply robbing Peter to pay Paul. The best tool for increased productivity is to limit interruptions, be organized (but don't spend 2 hours a day being organized), eat right, and get plenty of sleep. So while there are exceptional weeks where I'll put in long hours (such as providing support of a new function), it makes little sense to me or my employer to do so on a regular basis.

w.f.b.smith
w.f.b.smith

The official work week in the Netherlands is (at least) 36 hours for a full-time job. The figure of 27 hours may come from the average of dutch workers due to the high number of workers (often female) working part-time. The productivity (per hour) is very high in the Netherlands.

AllanQLD
AllanQLD

After reading all that drivel, you know why China exports to all the lazy western counties, typical "she'll be right Mate" attitude adopted, and companies moving to China where people WORK – even if I don’t agree with what they put up with and what they are paid – but they are not as lazy as the West

Hulstart
Hulstart

I work 7 days-a-week. 365 days-a-year and did not take a single day holiday nor sick for over 40 years and still I am quite happy and content and so is my family and kids with whom I spend lots of time. Secret, there is no secert, I LOVE what I do and work from home. If my family needs me, I??m there, no problem and since I work from home I work when I want and can and when my family does not need me.

l_e_cox
l_e_cox

Step back from this data for a moment (if you aren't too busy) and take a look at what it is telling us. We had a good thing going in the US; a few other countries still do. Yet someone or something is trying to push us back into a less workable model. This "new" model (which isn't really new at all - it's more like it was during the late 1800s - early 1900s) is, in effect, killing our society - or at least the one many of us grew up in. Why would anyone want to do that to the United States? And that's just the top layer of the onion. I wouldn't blame this on "bosses." They are being deceived, too. There is something much deeper going on here. A few of you might even know what it is. If you do, I encourage you to speak up.

greg_brance@yahoo.com
greg_brance@yahoo.com

There is a real easy solution to this. Enforce the Hourly vs Exempt rules. I have worked Hourly for years in IT and I love it. If you need me to respond after hours I get paid for it. Need to stay after hours to fix a server I get paid for it. It shouldn't be that hard of concept, getting paid for the amount of hours you work. You work 60-hours a week you get paid for those hours, you work 40-hours a week you get paid for those hours. To many times in the US, exempt employees are abused with un-realistic work hours.

OurITLady
OurITLady

If a server goes down 5 mins before my finish time I'm not going to clock off on schedule and tell them I'll call them back tomorrow - I don't believe any reasonable tech would. While I don't necessarily expect the time off in lieu of that formally I do expect some flexibility when I need to run home to meet a contractor, or leave a little early for personal reasons - any time that stops happening I start looking for another job with a more reasonable employer!

philip_jones2003
philip_jones2003

There is tremendous pressure to put extra time in even when there is no need for it. Ive just finished a job where leaving the office at around 8-9pm is considered the norm and although not stated, considered as 'letting the team down' if you didn't match the hours. Fact: If the project has been promised earlier than is actually possible then its not your screw-up. But it is your job and livelihood so what do we do? The few extra hours here and there I dont mind but my family comes first, no exception. Ive seen too many relationships come to grief because of some misguided idea of what professionalism is all about. If I go to a supermarket for a kilo of apple then that is what I expect: A kilo of apples, no more and no less. Why do employers expect and extra pound of flesh on a regular basis? I had one boss that used to come around the office at 5:05 each day. If you were still there then he wanted to know why. His reasoning: 'If you get run over by a bus then I dont want to find myself having to hire two people to replace you. I make my time estimates based on what I know you can do.' Curiously, that team consistently worked hard. There is a big difference between 'employee' and 'owned'. Since the word 'resource' ousted what dignity employees had, Ive seen a lot more 'time-abuse'.

d_baron
d_baron

IT, "hi-tec," have become oppressing (and have many many other occupations). Time to simply say: No! In a way, I am glad I am "too old" to program (read the article about casual dress!).

bc3tech
bc3tech

If your job consists of working against milestones and deadlines, like in research, development, R&D, then work hours are MEANINGLESS. Employees should be allowed to come & go as they please without and hourly crunch as long as meetings are being attended and milestones & deadlines are being hit. This is more commonly known as ROWE, and I'm all for it.

jamini.padhi
jamini.padhi

Those who stay late and come early is just because they are scared of the traffic! Since they have nothing else to do like go to a gym, etc. their maturity is also poor, they are introverts and since they hardly have quality/diverse friend circle, if at all any, they can never appreciate others.. get peeved easily. How many of those working even from 9-5 or 10-6 contribute even a few hours of quality time on work alone? Well, truth is that there is no such work at any office. That kind of work is called labor and can be seen in factories, dairy farms, etc. but not in any office. They get away with cheating!

giagejohn
giagejohn

The reason for longer work hours often boils down to bad management. It’s a lot easier to manage a time sheet than it is to manage people!

rosege0
rosege0

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/01/top-five-regrets-of-the-dying 2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard. "This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

stvntylr
stvntylr

I realize a balance is needed here, but do these statistics change at all if you really enjoy what you are doing?

Greenknight_z
Greenknight_z

A major reason that Business finally caved in on Labor's demands for a 40 hour week was that the first businesses that adopted it got increased productivity from their workers. Opposition to the idea collapsed once this became widely known, and it was passed into law in 1938. People forget the lessons of history, though, or we wouldn't be having this conversation now.

MikeRose
MikeRose

True story: My first Heart Attack was Stress-Related from working about 15 hours per day every week as an IT Consultant. The daily breakdown: 1) 4-6 hours = (2* 2-3) hours commuting from Central MD to Northern VA and back, 2) 8 hours billable on-site, and 3) 1-3 hours Analyzing/Reviewing/Studying: Project Documentation, Trade Journals, OEM Upgrade Documentation, IT/Database/Development-related Web Sites/Blogs, E-mail Lists. (Too much Stress [over time] caused physical damage to a Large Blood Vessel on the front of my Heart-- this damage resulted in a 90% blockage of the Vessel. Blockage of Vessels, by definition is a Heart Attack.) I was very lucky, I was at home when I felt the symptoms and my Wife rushed me to the Hospital Emergency Room that was only 5 minutes away. The ER Room Doctor said that I only had about 5-10 minutes from the first symptoms before I would have died without proper treatment. This all happened at 7pm, I was due to fly from MD to FL on business trip at 7 AM the next morning. It wouldn't have been too good if the onset was later during the flight! The project I on was had me flying from MD to CO and back every 4 weeks with these changes for the week in CO: 1) 2-3 hours = (2* 1-2) hours commuting from Hotel to Customer's Site and back & going through extremely rigorous security checks on entry, 2) 8 hours billable on-site, and 3) 4-5 hours Analyzing/Reviewing/Studying: Project Documentation, Trade Journals, OEM Upgrade Documentation, IT/Database/Development-related Web Sites/Blogs, E-mail Lists. Thats 14-16 hours/day plus 2 hours from Home, 5.5-6 hours Flight Time, 2 hours from Airport to Hotel, 2 hours commuting from Hotel to Customer's Site and back on Monday and reverse all of that on Friday. The pay was good, but not that good-- I quit soon after the Heart Attack and only took Consulting jobs that totalled 40-43 hours/week maximum, with minimal commuting time. PS On my previous project the PM Designed an entire system, but one of the key features that was available on the chosen DB software on other platforms was not available on the platform we had. As the Team's Database Expert, I got to tell the Customer about the problem that left no-way-forward with the specified and purchased H/W, OS, & DB S/W. About 3-5 days after that fateful meeting, the PM that designed the system commited Suicide!

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

With the advent of Blackberry's over a decade ago, bosses have come to expect the always connected employee. It doesn't help that it is even easier to connect into work no matter what. This is something that we will need to sort through....I'd rather wages catch up first, then I'd like to see work/life balance be addressed.

Dyalect
Dyalect

If you need more than 40hours, what are you doing all day???

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

That C-level execs don't take breaks? That employees are a waste of time and money? Are you describing your own workday? It appears you have no respect whatsoever for your fellow employees. But, given your attitude as expressed here, I strongly suspect your fellow employees return the favor, don't they?

OurITLady
OurITLady

In the US and Canada the norm seems to be 10-15 days vacation whereas almost every job I held in the UK started at a minimum of 20, more usually 25 (that seemed to be fairly normal round most of Europe as well). When my colleague and I looked we figured it was that aspect factored in that reduced the average work week.

Bronte G
Bronte G

If all of us are happy to benefit from the over-worked Chinese, or Indian, or other foreign workers, how long before they stop giving us what we want, and get themselves a Life? After all, they are human too, I think, and will also start having broken marriages, ulcers, and heart attacks, trying to satisfy the demands of greedy management and shareholders, some of whom have a life of luxury and corruption. Lazy? Just ask any farmer what that word means. They would not know.

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

And if you love it, then it can't be "work". Work is not supposed to be fun... otherwise it wouldn't be called "work"... especially if the pay isn't sufficient to raise a family, much less raise it properly... Cliches are cool, because they're both trite yet have a significant meaning and at the same time...

Greenknight_z
Greenknight_z

Many employers don't mind paying the overtime if it lets them avoid the expense of hiring another person. So you make a lot of extra money, but it still wrecks your health and robs you of time with family and friends. Better than unpaid overtime, sure - but it's still bad.

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

and I've seen people in their mid~late-50s doing the same thing. Nobody is "too old". If we choose to value workers...

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

Right now, you're given a set pay and if you finish up early, that's great. More time for you. Eventually, someone will say "Why give them money when they did not work?" Just like BYOD currently being encouraged to only later become mandatory*, much like and at a pace slightly faster than how pensions were replaced by 401k plans -- and before the occasional 'market crash' had those at the top cashing in with the workers left with empty bags... (anyone else remember the best example of that, called 'Enron'?) * for which at least one article has finally been presented on the net and I wasn't surprised...

OurITLady
OurITLady

the people setting the deadlines frequently have no idea of the amount of work involved. I've worked more than one place where the volume of projects is approximately double what could reasonably be expected from the staffing levels and yet the management can't seem to prioritise one over another and don't understand why they can't all be done on schedule and under budget.

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

Might not an ASD or other PDD have their brains wired in such a way that has them being socially awkward, feeble, or crippled, but could otherwise actually be self-reliant and independent in a fulfilling job? And how do you know all introverts can never appreciate others? And please don't patronize or be condescending to us - we know what labor is and what it entails. And how dare people go to the gym, given every other news media article saying everyone's fat because everyone chooses to drink 3 boxes of melted ice cream for every breakfast... sheesh... And all that, unlike some of your glib generalizations, ring closer to the truth, and I won't deny some of my responses are a little generalized as well. The difference is, I am not arrogant enough to be so myopic and I freely admit the scope of the situation is wider than both our responses.

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

but that includes personal time so they can be fathers and/or individuals. At least regarding the males... it really is sad... and the manipulated forces that compel workers to stay on longer - some sources claim the legal and medical professions use artificial means to keep their numbers low, which has a twofold effect: 1. higher costs (go figure) 2. longer hours, which means quicker burnout for the workers

mckinnej
mckinnej

it comes back to bite you. I used to think nothing of working until 8-10 at night on some code or configuring a system. Loved it. When I wasn't doing that I would take all my paperwork home and do that during the evenings. My stress level was through the roof, but I didn't realize it. (I was constantly having hallucinations, which I was seriously thinking were ghosts or something crazy like that.) After a few years of that idiocy my wife brought me back to reality. She showed me how our daughters were growing up fast and I was missing it. I had no time for her or them. She put her foot down and gave me an ultimatum. I went cold turkey and started working 40 hours religiously. It changed my life. I had no idea how rewarding a normal schedule could be. I still stick to that work ethic. My life is great. I still enjoy work, but I also enjoy gardening, tinkering with my car, traveling with the wife, playing with my grandkids, and so on. I just wish I could work a 4-day week. ;-)

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

While occasional, limited overtime to complete a project is to be expected, I expect compensation for extra effort. You want me available more than 8 hours per day, 5 days a week, you'd damn well better be paying me royally for it.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

O once worked for a company where the big boss often walked around the place just before lunch on a Friday and got a run down of how things were going. If all was well and everything up to date, he'd make an announcement about 2.00 pm for all staff to finish early and go home now. Great guy to work for. We all hated it went he got bought out.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

when I said, "Call me from the office and I'll tell you want to do." In the end one of the weekend duty staff made the trip to the office and called me for instructions. Job got done and my boss' boss clocked me up for four hours OT - pissing my boss off - he got shifted to another division two weeks later. The guy who called first never could understand that my job contract was Mon to Fri 8.30 am to 5.00 pm less public holidays. That same idiot got hauled over the coals by his new division head some months later as he was two months late sending over a project that had to be completed in two weeks. I and one of my staff worked fifty-four hours over time on work days, plus 36 hours on the weekend, as well as our whole day for nine work days to get it done and out on time. I then billed the rectum for all the overtime as we had an interdepartmental charge system for work sent over late. The OT worked out as the equal of 160 hours normal pay each, plus five full days of regular pay each = giving a total of 400 hours of billable work in that fortnight. The division head hadn't budgeted for it at all. If it had come over on schedule we'd have put in about the same amount of hours, but out of our budget as it's what we were there for; but being so late we could bill them for it, and did, at $50 per hour - my budget looked very good that quarter - $20,000 of billable work. My division head gave both me and my off-sider a $2,500 bonus from it at the end of the quarter to compensate the two weeks of solid work with no personal time. Some bosses never learn that people are a resource of their own and have their own lives - until you can use it against them where it hurts them.

imjusttoogreat
imjusttoogreat

the simple FACT is that employers have no right whatsoever to expect anyone to be at work at ANY time other than nine to five. there is nothing at work that is as important as home. when you leave the office, everything about the office should stay there.

SilasMontgommeri
SilasMontgommeri

I work for a company and Its pretty much a 1.5 man team to keep 180 user's PC's, our servers, and deal with asset trcking. So I've gotten pretty good at spliting up my team to keep up..but just barely. So anytime a server goes down, or email freaks out, or a crazy user issue comes up I can end up falling behind if I don't play my cards right. Just because you have to have overtime dosn't mean you arn't working hard.

OurITLady
OurITLady

If your department isn't overworked and understaffed then you're in a far better position than 90% of the people I know - IT or otherwise.

spawnywhippet
spawnywhippet

These days we are expected to work smarter, harder, faster and longer. I have to accomplish now in a month what my father's generation would have spent a year doing.

bc3tech
bc3tech

so you expect me to twiddle my thumbs all day because of incompetent decision makers? awesome waste of time, talent, and my family life.

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

even told of his son crying because his dad had to leave for work so early all the time and not have time to be a father... and yet he thinks I'm a liberal because I'm conscious of workers' issues being as relevant as any other issue in society... to him, "it's just business in the real world". Except our world is what we make of it, so why does he not mind his son being driven to tears because he has no time for family values? He's actually a good guy, I know he does feel sorrow at not having all the time he wants, and he probably never had the chance to read up on economics-based articles showing wage stagflation, wages actually going down since 1974 or whenever, and other issues that have shown our middle class being put into a bad place, but when people claim colleges are "liberal breeding grounds", it's safe to say those people never went to college or bothered to look up facts that would disprove their own claims... * a private, non-unionized and regionally accredited college (not Univ of Phoenix, thankfully) that pays instructors $40~$50k/yr despite their requiring a Masters degree, was said to be worth umpteenth millions, but couldn't afford proper equipment in computer labs so we bought our own on top of the outlandish costs and for fields (not basket weaving) whose value seems to be going down with each passing year thanks to CEOs lying to congress, but before I go off into a dozen tangents...

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

How dare you have a life of your own? You exist for them. Remember the techrepublic article where an employer demanded a worker quit her second job? (I think the worker involved was female...) If that worker was such an asset, why wouldn't the company pay enough so the worker needn't do x number of jobs in the first place? The company wanted it both ways, that much is clear. Or else it shouldn't have to resort to tricks to make the employee think it is an asset. Chicanery, abuse, being treated like dirt and some wonder why workers are upset these days?

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

Must have been a cousin of my boss, figured that he'd pad things too and to the government. Lost his job and was indicted for fraud. Went back to Mass. and whined.

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

That's part of this "free market" concept, I suppose... if they want you to buy your own gear, or to work for the hours they say, or that any work you do for them is their property to profit from, and at the wage they dictate... that's how it is. Somehow, methinks Grace Jones could do a better job at spelling it out, in the form of song... which reminds me of the lyrics to one of her songs, called "Corporate Cannibal"... agree or disagree with the lyrics, companies in a free market would not mind somebody singing about concepts they might always agree with - if the market were a democracy to begin with...

khiatt
khiatt

You should only be expected to work your Regular Shift hours. It's not practical for every business to work 9 to 5, Monday thru Friday. If my internet provider needs to upgrade their system, I want it done during off peak hours so it doesn't interrupt my business. I'm not taking the day off work to go to Disneyland because they are only open 9-5 M-F. That's just ridiculous. I couldn't even buy gas on the way home because all the gas stations would be closed, "It's after 5, the employees had to go home." There are plenty of reasons not to work 9-5.

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

Plenty of fields need shifts other than 9-to-5. I've no qualms working "nonstandard" shifts, but for persona time, mental recharging, family, and other concerns, more hours (especially at less pay and for good work done) only devalues me and every other worker. Are we nothing more than "disposable costs"?

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