Americans are working 60 hours a week as opposed to the 40 hours per week that they are supposed to. You can blame it all to the Increasingly Connected world, Competition and Economic downturn. While longer working hours may boost productivity it may do more harm than good in achieving end results.

The 60 hours of work per week is coming at the expense of health, happiness, and even productivity of Employees.

Americans are literally working themselves to death. America is the most overworked nation in the developed world and Americans have become hostage to their jobs that has made their work-life balance unattainable.

President Franklin Roosevelt in 1937 signed into law the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as part of his New Deal agenda, establishing the five-day, 40-hour maximum workweek. The unions pushed it, and business leaders went along with it, since the research conducted in the five decades before that consistently found that 8-hour work days and 40-hour work weeks kept workers productive, safe, healthy, and efficient over a long period of time.

The 40-hour workweek, however, has slowly become a thing of past.  More people in the middle-income bracket, as well as those in managerial positions are working longer hours.

In the 1970’s, 34% of men in professional-managerial positions worked 50-hours or more per week.  Today that number has increased to 38%.  As far as middle-income male workers are concerned, 21% worked more than 50-hours per week in the 1970’s, whereas today they account for 23% . With professional women, only 6% worked 50-hours or more per week in the 1970’s, whereas this figure has since more than doubled.

Tragically, Americans are working approximately 11 more hours per week now than they did in the 1970’s, yet the average income for middle-income families has declined by 13% since the 1970s. 

European countries such as Germany, Norway, and the Netherlands boast the lowest average work hoursper week, working just 27 hours per week compared to American who work for 35-40 hours per week on an average.  In Denmark and Sweden, the average work week is just 31-hours.  According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the average total work hours of Americans exceeds that of the Norwegians by nearly 500 hours over a span of a year.

According to a recent article published in Time, the world’s happiest countries based on Gallup polls for 6 years from 2005-2011 are:

  1. Denmark
  2. Finland
  3. Norway
  4. Netherland
  5. Canada

The additional free time from not being bound by work for long hours allows people more of a social life to bond and develop relationships with one another. 

Surprisingly the residents of these countries face the more frigid temperatures and harsh winters than the Americans yet they are forgiving and place a much greater value upon strong relationships and prosperity as it pertains to their happiness.        

Americans work hard for a variety of reasons.  Being purely driven by ambition and dreams of becoming the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates could be one of the motivations.  Maybe it is service to others that motivates them to work hard; that desire to feel needed and wanted by their communities. 

In this competitive corporate environment, people fear being laid off or underperforming and being passed over for a promotion, thus they feel obliged to perpetually work, even while on vacation. 

According to a study, 57% checked email on family outings. 38% at the dinner table. 69% can’t go to sleep without checking email. 40% do so after 10 PM.

People have failed to assert their need to take time off from fear of losing their jobs and their livelihood, in spite of the fact that doing so would be beneficial to them and to our employers in the long term.         

They are working more and enjoying it less. 

Overwork at cost of Health

We are not machines like Smartphones, Tablets, Computers, but human beings with vital organs that need to be nourished, rested, and kept active. Even these gadgets need to be recharged to continue working efficiently. There is a false assumption that human beings can endure long strenuous hours of mental (or physical) activity and focus without major consequences on our cognitive, emotional, or physical health.            

It could affect your personal life, hampering your ability to concentrate, make wise decisions, be a good caretaker, etc. 

Overwork is also associated with psychological distress.  A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental medicine determined that those who worked overtime regularly had increased levels of anxiety and depression.  This was true regardless of gender, or vocation. 

This makes perfect sense, since many people perceive their work as a major source of stress, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).  We all need some stress in our lives, as it keeps us alert and motivated, but too much or chronic stress is not good. 

Stress also leads to destructive habits.  People under chronic stress are more likely to resort to alcohol, cigarettes, or other drugs as a coping mechanism to ease the discomfort that arises out of work stress.

Even excessive sitting is linked to obesity, which in turn, is linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and a host of other illnesses. 

Consider the awesome Infographic below created by the Team at Online MBA as a Wake-up Call.

Bring Back the 40 Hour Work Week Infographic
Source: OnlineMBA.com

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