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Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Mythical 80-hour Work Week

Often times when I run into new friends or engage in social conversations – I hear about how hard they work, and usually the conversation digresses into a couple of folks making some statements about their 80-hour work weeks, followed by the head nodding of the rest of the group.. That’s right, 80 hours or double what a “normal” work week would be considered.

Yes, I know America is the land of great exaggerators. But, do people realize how long an 80-hour work really is? I think people make these statements without really considering how big of a number that is.

What I have come to believe is that for most people this is grossly exaggerated, thus creating what I call the “Mythical 80-hour Work Week.”

Working 80 hours in a work week is an awful lot. That means a 16-hour work day EACH day during the week. Throw in a lunch hour or even eating at your desk while checking on your favorite websites or Gmail and that is a solid 17 hours. That leaves only 7 hours to eat breakfast, dinner, do any errands and sleep.

How unlikely does it sound? Well, you would need to start work each morning at 5am and not finish or leave the office until 10pm. Very few people truly do this.

Furthermore, take my recent case of a day trip – if you count the same as I do, that would be a 17-hour work day. Even if I work 10-hour days for the rest of the week, say 7am-6pm – it would be less than a 60-hour work week.

On a couple of occasions, just for fun I have asked, “What office hours are you keeping anyways?” The answer given is usually, well I am usually in the office from 8am-7pm and then I answer emails once I do some things around the house. Read about 60 hours a week.

Now of course there are a few people that put in 80 hours weeks, or some of us that are in the technology will do that around special projects and deadlines. In fact, I know some folks that do this more than they should.

However, in general, there is a “Mythical 80-hour Work Week” phenomenon out there. Watch out for it!


? said...

I totally agree with your take on this. Although I have had periods myself where I've worked 80 hours/week for one to four weeks in a row to meet a critical deadline, I've never done it on a consistent basis. But I have had long stretches of several months where I worked 55-60 hours per week. That was enough to just about kill me. I can't imagine doing 80 weeks for more than a month without suffering a nervous breakdown.

On the other hand, I did work with a guy who put in 80-hour weeks consistently, even though there was no reason that he should put in that amount of time. He would drink two or three of the LARGE cans of Rock Star energy drink every day and he would jump out of his chair at the slightest sound.

Anonymous said...

Medical residents do this all the time. In fact, residencies get in trouble all the time for going OVER the 80 hour week LIMITS. Sometimes I feel sorry for myself, but then I remember there are a lot of single moms out there working two full time jobs to make ends meet, and I don't feel so bad anymore.

Ken Hanscom said...

Good point, there are definitely some jobs and folks that work that hard or they require that amount of time. Especially to pay your dues in the beginning. My main complaint and thus the rant is around people who over exaggerate the amount they work for the effect.

Anonymous said...

I work the 80 hour week. One 9-5 job and a telecommuting job that takes up the rest of my time. Sure I make 6 figures, but to be honest, its almost not worth it. You don't feel rich when you're constantly stressing about tomorrow's deadlines. And all your friends and relatives start to drift away because they can't grasp the responsibility that you chose to accept when deciding to work that much. My advice- don't do it unless you're set on retiring at 32 like me.