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What happened to the 40 hour work week?
Old 08-18-2008, 09:08 AM   #1
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What happened to the 40 hour work week?

It seems like hardly anybody works 40 hours a week anymore. Workweeks of 50, 60 hours or more are common. And people seem to brag about the number of hours they work. They’ll come in Monday morning saying how they had no weekend because they had to work so much, but they get a satisfaction out of this. This got me to thinking. Thirty years ago, I don’t remember people working so many hours. So what has happened in our society to cause this? Is it just the competiveness and the fact the businesses must increase productivity?

One bad side effect of this is that people and families seem to be more isolated from each other that they were 30 or 40 years ago. Some may say this is because people are more selfish now, but I think a major factor is that people just don’t have the time they had years ago. I mean, if you take a double income family where they work 50 hours a week and have a couple of children, by the time they take care of work and family obligations, there just isn’t the time to devote to community service that there used to be.

Any thoughts or insights?
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Old 08-18-2008, 09:16 AM   #2
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I honestly don't know any of my friends who work more than 40 hours. I stay at my desk for lunch, but that really doesn't count.
Maybe my friends are a bunch of slackers, but if someone has to do work on a weekend, it is a big deal and a surprise to everyone else.
Maybe it is cultural to my area, but working that much is really undesirable from both an employer and employee perspective.
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Old 08-18-2008, 09:17 AM   #3
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Thirty years ago, I don’t remember people working so many hours.
Thirty years ago = 1978, the year I began working at minimegacorp. I can assure you that even waaaay back then, 50+ hour workweeks were expected if you were in management - and wanted to stay employed.
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Old 08-18-2008, 09:18 AM   #4
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I see a lot LESS of this at my company that I did when I started 14 years ago, when we were much smaller and the stock price was doubling every year.
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Old 08-18-2008, 09:24 AM   #5
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It depends on your field of employment. I still see a lot of office workers who work 9-5 and have their cars warmed up at 4:55.

In Law, Accounting, and Finance it's never been a 40 hour week.
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Old 08-18-2008, 09:31 AM   #6
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I still see some people that work those long weeks, but not as much as in the past. I was the same way, working at home in the evenings etc, until I went part time a few years ago and decided to stick to my hours. It's almost like I got a raise, because I receive 75% of my former pay to work 30 hours, but I used to work 45-50/week.

Unfortunately, this situation won't last much longer, as we were bought out and my position will soon be eliminated
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Old 08-18-2008, 10:10 AM   #7
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I went from a 60-80 hour work week to a 40. It involved a 25% pay cut, but it was worth it at the time.

Of course, being greedy, I work on the side too... but, hour for hour, the pay is way better than that 25% pay cut.
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Old 08-18-2008, 10:14 AM   #8
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1966 - Seven days a week 12 hours a day - American SST. Took a transfer to R&D after 8 mo's to avoid going wacky.

Space Program was always herky gerky - balls to the wall or hurry up and wait. 24-36 hrs with on the job quick naps to get a test off were normal.

heh heh heh - 9 to 5 meant Congress was in session and hadn't voted the program money yet - a little Mark Twain humor. .
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Old 08-18-2008, 10:21 AM   #9
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My MegaCorp demanded at least 50 hr/wk, and I usually put that much in PLUS being on-call 24x7, with a lot of late night action going on. It truly sucked, and is part of the reason I worked so hard to be in a position to FIRE. Luckily, my last 2 years I got a lab job that didn't require on-call work, and was pretty much a 9-5er. It was sweet, and helped me ease into ER.

I think working under that kind of stress is really bad for you, and can totally screw up your ability to maintain relationships. It also effects your ability to learn to relax. It took me most of a year in ER before I learned to sleep a solid 7 hours through the night. I had spent so many years sleeping 2-3 hours at a time, 2 or 3 times a day/night cycle. Not what humans are made to do.

From what I understand from my ex-compadres, it's not getting any better. They RIF a bunch of people, and expect the survivors to make up the difference. And most of these poor souls live pretty much paycheck to paycheck and don't even have the dream of ER.
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Old 08-18-2008, 10:44 AM   #10
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Thanks for all the replies. I guess it depends on your personal experiences. In 1978, I was in high school so my only "experiences" with hours of work per week was my father and the neighborhood parents - none of whom were managers to my knowledge. I started working in 1984 and didn't notice people working excessive hours. But now that I have "moved up", I interact a lot more with managers now, so that may explain my observations.
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Old 08-18-2008, 10:46 AM   #11
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It seems like hardly anybody works 40 hours a week anymore. Workweeks of 50, 60 hours or more are common. And people seem to brag about the number of hours they work. They’ll come in Monday morning saying how they had no weekend because they had to work so much, but they get a satisfaction out of this. This got me to thinking. Thirty years ago, I don’t remember people working so many hours. So what has happened in our society to cause this? Is it just the competiveness and the fact the businesses must increase productivity? ...
My bold.... Productivity is not measured by how long someone works... but how much they produce in a given amount of time... so if they work 50 hrs per week and produce 25% more than 40 hrs per week... there is no increased productivity.... now, it they are saying they got that increase and the person did not increase their hours... then it looks like an increase even though it is a flawed measure....


As someone said, accounting was not one... I worked upwards of 80 to 90 hours a week for a few months and then up to 120 for a couple of weeks to get taxes done... I got out of that my 4th year when it was that bad (it was not as bad the first two)... I said never again...

THEN, I worked for some go getters who wanted to get big bonuses by not hiring the correct number of people... and the job went from 40ish to 45 to 50 and was going toward 55 when I bailed... funny but they had to hire two people to do the job I was doing... and paid both MORE than they paid me...

To me, I see it as the companies trying to get the young into their jobs... provide them with a lot of perks and make it seem like it is normal to work these weird hours...
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Old 08-18-2008, 11:11 AM   #12
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I have always worked 50-60 hours/ week. If you count travel time it is probably closer to 70. I am not sure how you could manage a sales force across multiple time zones in a 40 hour week. I have noticed that with the proliferation of email it has gotten worse. Work all day, travel in the evenings (you can't make a living traveling 8-5 when your customers are working) and then respond to that day's emails when you get into the hotel. With electronic mail, everyone now expects immediate responses. What used to be downtime in the evenings is now spent on email.

Just a couple more years..
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Old 08-18-2008, 11:25 AM   #13
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DW is also in "sales management" as a District manager for Vicky's Secret.....her normal work day begins in front of the computer at home at 6 AM....her day ends the same way....around 8 PM (sometimes later)....and that is on the days that she is not away from home

Although she makes my semi ER possible by covering our insurance needs, she doesn't really want to understand the relationship of time for money....her focus is on performance and career...and I probably need to add that she is still in love with her j*b
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Old 08-18-2008, 11:27 AM   #14
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Bet you really hate it when she brings home some free samples...
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Old 08-18-2008, 11:28 AM   #15
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Well - in my case it has been replaced by a 168 hour "do what you wish" week.

Yes - I'm retired ....

Sorry - I could not resist...

- Ron
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Old 08-18-2008, 11:33 AM   #16
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Both of my sons, their wives, and almost all of their friends work 60+ hours. I know some older women who work a more normal week but it pretty well tires them out anyway.

Ha
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Old 08-18-2008, 11:40 AM   #17
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Gosh I feel mighty lucky to work in an environment so different from those described.

But I sure do hope y'all are paid a lot for so much extra work!

I once worked at a place that had an overtime culture, we got there early, stayed late, and it was just a given that everyone stayed over. I didn't realize until I quit what a cool-aid cult it was and swore I'd never do that again.
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Old 08-18-2008, 11:42 AM   #18
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I have a friend here at Megacorp who went out on disability, then returned and asked for a "work accomodation" according to the Americans with Disabilities Act. What was the huge accomodation she asked for? Nothing more than a 40-hour work week.

She interviewed for any number of internal jobs -- simply could NOT find a single manager, in this massive company, to agree to this "hardship." Friday was her last day - they laid her off.

I myself have interviewed internally and been told I'd work 80 hours a week for up to three months during product launches, with 60 being the average during non-launch times.

I think the high cost of living, coupled with the uncertainties of healthcare, social security, etc. etc. mean we all "owe our souls to the company store" and don't dare stand up for ourselves lest we be "rightsized."
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Old 08-18-2008, 11:43 AM   #19
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hmmm...I thought people are working less hours.

I've been doing mostly 30-35 hours for the last few years, and I'm one of the younger generations, relatively speaking
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Old 08-18-2008, 12:21 PM   #20
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Gosh I feel mighty lucky to work in an environment so different from those described.

But I sure do hope y'all are paid a lot for so much extra work!

I once worked at a place that had an overtime culture, we got there early, stayed late, and it was just a given that everyone stayed over. I didn't realize until I quit what a cool-aid cult it was and swore I'd never do that again.
For me it was a personal choice- I made the decison early in my career that I wanted to work for a company that rewarded performance, did not limit earnings potential, and gave me the opportunity to make it happen. If I had to work 60-80 hours/week to achieve my goals, (FIRE being one of them) that was my choice. I was able to earn several times what a 40-hour/week desk job would pay. For me it has turned out to be a good decision; for those who end up working those hours for a fixed salary, it was probably a bad decision.

While many people genuinely enjoy their jobs and the companies they work for, I suspect there are a lot of people out there who consider any company that measures their employees contributions to the success of the organization to be a "kool-aid cult". In my experience, many times these are the same folks are the ones standing around the water cooler advocating a shorter workweek; complaining about their co-workers promotions, watching the clock with with their cars idling in the parking lot at 4:45pm; leaving early on Friday to cash their paychecks, and always unhappy with their compensation and career path.
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