How Many Hours at Work Are Simply Too Many Hours at Work?

© japonico - Fotolia.com
© japonico - Fotolia.com

An article last week on NFL.com spoke to the work schedule of Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, which averages 100 hours per week!

Here’s how that breaks down:

  • Seven (7) days @24 hours = 168 total hours in a week;
  • 100 hour work weeks / 7 days = 14.2 hours per day, per week.

What does a 14 hour day look like? You get into the office at 6 or 7 am and you don’t get home until 8-9-10 pm — every day, every week.

“This guy sleeps in his office”

I know what you’re thinking — well, they only play 20 games per year. He gets half a year off! Plus, he makes millions of dollars.

Well, consider that NFL coaches never stop working, and the off season might be busier than the actual season.

Why do so many of these coaches work 100 hour weeks? From the article:

The mentality of most coaches borders on the paranoid-obsessive end of the spectrum. Good coaches care about the littlest details. It takes time to wade through film, meet with coaches and players, script practices, design game plans and perform the oodles of other responsibilities that need to be perfect…

“We’re here a ton, but then I go up and I talk to a coach about anything and I’m sitting in his office and I peek down and glance underneath his desk, and there’s a pillow and a blanket,” Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson said. “For a brief moment, I laugh and I’m like, ‘Holy smokes, this guy sleeps in his office.’ But then when you really think about it, it’s like, ‘This guy really sleeps in his office.’ ”

Safety a concern when limiting work

It begs the question: should the NFL, or any employer, put a limit on the amount of hours that a person can work?

Airlines do it for their pilots and flights crew. Safety is paramount, and the last thing you want is a pilot that hasn’t slept for 18-24 hours. Many other occupations do it for similar reasons.

Safety always seems to be the one factor in limiting work hours. Is the NFL not concerned about the safety and health of their coaches? They limit the amount of practice time for their players.

How many of us wish we had employees who loved what they did so much they wanted to work 100 hours per week!?

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Limiting the staff to 40 hours

BambooHR’s founders limit their entire staff to 40 hours per week. They kick them out if they try to work more. That seems a bit radical. I’m sure my staff would love me doing that to them, but 40 hours in most environments seems to be the minimum, not the maximum.

I’m not even focusing on whether the hours are in the “office” or at home. I’m just talking total work hours. How many hours are too many? Hit me in the comments.

My feeling is there are times in every occupation when more or less hours are needed to do a great job at whatever it is you’re doing. One week I can be a rock star at 40 hours, but the next week I might look like a total slacker for working 60 hours.

I’m a big proponent of working when you need to. The old farmers saying of  “make hay while the sun shines” runs true in every organization.

But if you have someone who is consistently, over long periods of time, working 60 plus hours, you’ve got a staffing problem.

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.

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