The answer to that question depends on a lot of things. First, do you have a job? Is it a part-time or full-time position? Are you an hourly or salary employee?
How has the economy affected your industry? How much money do you need to sustain your lifestyle? Does your boss like you? Are you motivated enough to work overtime? Do you have the time available to do so?
An interesting article at the Wall Street Journal confirms what we’ve known to be the case all along—40 hours for professional employees is perceived in many industries to be a part-time week.
Nearly 38% of men with professional and managerial positions worked over 50 hours a week between 2006 and 2008…
TLNT picked up the article and offered their own comments:
Sometimes, if [employees are] non-exempt, they do this without putting in for the proper overtime they have coming because they know doing so would cause grief for their supervisors and they would be accused of not being a “team player.”
People who want to get ahead, rightly or wrongly, know they need to put in more than the usual 40 hours if they want to succeed.
When I first read this analysis, I honestly wanted to throw up. Our collective drive has blinded us to the realities of human life and the long-term effects of this kind of approach to work, to the point where we willingly throw the legal requirements of employment out the window.
The reality is, however, that if you’re not willing to put in the time, 30 people are lined up at your manager’s door, ready and willing to take your spot. In what continues to be a high-unemployment economy, employees are at a significant disadvantage and under a lot of pressure to perform.
The old saying is truer than ever—many of us are working more and more for less and less.
I see hope though, because this isn’t the case with everyone. Many employers are using the bad economy to differentiate themselves and show employees exactly how much they appreciate them. Others still have moved on from their corporate jobs and are paving their own way through self-employment, setting their own hours and expectations.
40 Hours for Me
For a long time, I was a workaholic, taking on as much as I could handle and often more. It’s true that this contributed to me getting ahead, but it came at a price. I was often burned out, sick, and my life felt out of balance.
Today, I have a different take on the 40-hour week, perhaps fitting more with my own generation’s increased focus on work-family balance. I see 40 hours as a ceiling, not a floor. My responsibilities extend beyond my job—to my family, my hobbies, my health and spiritual well-being, my personal development and social time.
Yes, I work in a profession that occasionally requires 70-hour efforts to complete a project. I recognize that need and cater to it on a temporary basis, as I would expect anyone else to do. But I also see the effect on colleagues who can’t or won’t put their foot down and put in those weeks on a regular basis. It takes a toll.
I believe that the 40-hour work week is an antiquated measure of productivity. I prefer to see my week in terms of what I’ve accomplished, not how long I’ve worked. Working 50 hours and accomplishing little, means little. Working 30 and accomplishing much; that’s progress and a way forward.
There’s a quote I love from the recent 37signals book, ReWork. When talking about why workaholics aren’t effective, the authors write:
Workaholics make the people who don’t stay late feel inadequate for “merely” working reasonable hours. That leads to guilt and poor morale all around. Plus, it leads to an ass- in- seat mentality—people stay late out of obligation, even if they aren’t really being productive.
Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is already home because she figured out a faster way to get things done.
There’s an amusing short clip that goes with this quote that I thought I’d include. It captures the culture in so many professional environments perfectly:
(Watch it on YouTube instead if you’re not able to see it above)
Finally, Your Money or Your Life, one of my favorite books on personal finance, has this to offer:
Aren’t we killing ourselves–our health, our relationships, our sense of joy and wonder–for our jobs? We are sacrificing our lives for money–but it’s happening so slowly that we barely notice.
Even though the official work week has been pegged at forty hours for nearly half a century, many professionals believe they must work overtime and weekends to keep up…Opinion Research Corporation showed dramatic drops in job satisfaction among all age groups, in every occupation, in every social class, in every part of the country, despite the simultaneous increase of commitment to career in the mid-twenties to mid-forties age range. We are working more, but enjoying life less.
What’s Your Take?
How many hours per week do you currently work? Is it a function of necessity or desire? How do you feel about working overtime?