Culture, HR Insights, Talent Management

I Still Don’t Think That You Work 80 Hours Per Week

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I have to say that one of my most well-read posts, ever, and one that I continue to take the most crap about, is What Would it Take to Get You to Work 80 Hours Per Week?

People actually take this post as a personal attack on their work ethic. So, I’m here to say – I still don’t believe you!

And now, I have research to back up how you don’t really work 80 hours in a week. This is from Fast Company and titled The Truth About How Much Workaholics Actually Work:

A study published in the June 2011 Monthly Labor Review that compared estimated work weeks with time diaries reported that people who claimed their “usual” work weeks were longer than 75 hours were off, on average, by about 25 hours. You can guess in which direction. Those who claimed that a “usual” work week was 65–74 hours were off by close to 20 hours. Those claiming a 55–64-hour work week were still about 10 hours north of the truth. Subtracting these errors, you can see that most people top out at fewer than 60 work hours per week.

Many professionals in so-called extreme jobs work about 45–55 hours a week. Those are numbers I can attest to from time logs I’ve seen over the years. I’ve given speeches at companies known for their sweatshop hours and had up-and-comers keep time logs for me. Their recorded weeks tend to hover around 60 hours – and that’s for focused, busy weeks with no half days, vacation days, or dentist appointments, and, most important, for weeks that people are willing to share with colleagues. We live in a competitive world, and boasting about the number of hours we work has become a way to demonstrate how devoted we are to our jobs.

That would be funny, except that numbers have consequences. If you think you’re working 80 hours per week, you’ll make different choices in your attempts to optimize them than if you know you usually work 55.”

It’s not about hours, but results

Look, I get you work hard and you work long, but I also get all of us think we work longer than we actually do! It’s not an attack – it’s just the truth.

The same goes for all of you out their working 40 hours per week, when you only have about 20 hours of work – you find ways to stretch 20 hours of work into 40 hours of pay!

Ultimately, we shouldn’t be talking about hours (damn unions!), we should be talking about results. I don’t care if you work 10 hours or 100 hours; I truly, only care about what you get done in that time. We still have too many leaders who worry about hours and watch and see who leaves “first” and who stays “late.” The reality is, it probably has no bearing at all on their performance – and if anything, probably has a negative influence.

Results — set the desired result and manage to that. If you have those not meeting the result, then you manage that issue, which might include the need to work more hours!

I know, I know the girls from ROWE will love hearing this – and think they converted me – but they haven’t. While I really like ROWE,  it still doesn’t work for every organization.

Ugh, please don’t let Cali and Jody see this!

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community – so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.
  • Carol Anderson

    Big, arm-pumping YES! In my experience, those who claim that amount of time in the job spend at least 50% talking about things that are not “part of the job”. At the end of my 40ish hours, when I’ve worked my butt off, any work I tried to do would be poor – only so much energy.

  • http://twitter.com/TheDataNerd Phillip Marquart

    I also think that people tend count commute time into their exaggerated number of hours. Instead of seeing time at work as time “in the office,” people tend to look at work as “time away from home.” Since people are living further from work, perhaps that accounts for some of it.

  • Kyle Jones

    The great take-a-way from this article……focus on results. It’s better to work one hour productive than one-hundred hours not.

  • Clint Johnson

    I guess I fall into a different category since my longest, 80+ hour a week job was objectively quantified in the vessel’s logbook I operated a tug and barge moving logging trucks non-stop for 12 to 17 hours a day during the five or six day workweek and then ran for another 8-9 hours a day on the weekend for ancillary traffic. In my case, I don’t even have to qualify any coffee or lunch break since if we stopped for a ten minute coffee break, the end of the day got pushed back ten minutes… we packed a lunch and ate at the helm.

    I do not miss those hours but I do miss the paycheck.

  • JB

    I start at 7am, finish at 6pm, no lunch break, mon to fri. 8am to 2pm sat, again no break. These are the hours I have to do as a branch manager. My branch opening times are 730am to 5pm, and 8 to 12pm sat. Im not overstating anything, nor being inefficient. Tell ya what though, I sleep a lot on sundays!!

  • Jori

    Construction foreman working 6am-6:30pm with 30 minute lunch monday thru friday. Saturday 6am-4:30pm with 30 minute lunch. Sunday 6am-2:30pm again with 30 minute lunch. Total of 78 hours a week. This is mandatory with a very strict deadline at a college football stadium. I doubt that study includes all industries; Crazy hours are very common in labor industries.