# Do americans really work so many hours?

1. Mar 4, 2005

### nameta9

From those I know and see most work about 8 hours, 5 days a week. But I read on the internet that alot of americans work 50 hours or more a week. Is this really true or is it only a small portion of the population? Thanks for any real life data! I feel that people are either a) exaggerating or b) lying or c) just wasting alot of time at work to add up hours.

2. Mar 4, 2005

### Monique

Staff Emeritus
I worked 60 hours during 5 days a week (6 am to 6 pm), depending on the profession I think the people in the US DO work extraordinary hours. Ofcourse you don't get paid for the 60 hours, you just get paid for 37.5 hours

3. Mar 4, 2005

### nameta9

What percentage of the population in america do you think exceed the 40 hour week? Most of the people I know don't seem to do more than 40 hours (suburb of south NJ), but maybe I don't know or didn't notice. Also I read people putting in 14 or 16 hour days, but if you do an intense and concentrating job how can you possibly last? I mean I imagine the breaks or down times are quite long during a 14 hour day.....

4. Mar 4, 2005

### Monique

Staff Emeritus
Actually, people usually don't take breaks.. a break is having a sandwhich wile sitting behind the computer doing analyses ;)

I'm not sure about the percentage, a friend of mine in the automotive industry also worked 6-6 hours standard daily and he had to come in on Saturdays too.

All I know is that here in Holland working hours are 9 to 5 with a standard lunch and two coffee breaks. A few months ago there was a government incentive to start working a few hours more a week, which met with great resistance. One in seven works 40 hours or more, one in 10 has a contract to work 40 hours or more a week.

5. Mar 4, 2005

### Staff: Mentor

In the US, the difference is the class of worker. Blue collar (occupational) workers that get paid by the hour will rarely work over forty hours unless they get paid overtime. Their jobs usually allow them very little flexibility during the work day.

White collar Professional, management, salaried employees tend to work very long hours. Before PF, it was not uncommon for me to work over 80 hours a week, every week. We make the same amount of money no matter how many hours we work. It's a different work ethic, usually you work until it gets done. There is generally more flexibility with how you shedule your time which make the longer hours easier to deal with.

Last edited: Mar 4, 2005
6. Mar 4, 2005

### Staff: Mentor

A buddy of mine used to do tech support for Unisys (voicemail servers). They started him on hourly, expecting him to make around $35k. After making over$60k his first year, working 60-80 hours a week (no overtime bonus), they switched him to salary at something like $45k. I have the best of both worlds: I get paid hourly, but for a guaranteed 40 hours plus paid vacation. If we're slow (we are now) and I work maybe 30 hours a week, I get paid for 40. When we're busy I might work 60 and get paid for 60. I rarely work more than 60. There is also a larger percentage of Americans working multiple jobs. With less social welfare than in Europe, one crappy job may not be enough to make a living. Another friend of mine works at an aquarium for$22k and works reail at the mall a couple of nights a week.

Last edited: Mar 4, 2005
7. Mar 4, 2005

### nameta9

Thanks alot for your view. In the 80 hour week job, I imagine people make quite alot of money, more than 5,000 US dollars clean a month? Otherwise it would seem that 8 hour jobs at McDonalds actually pays more..... Is it also the case that companies are always threatening to fire people so they are forced to work so many hours? Also planning projects that then require so much extra time means someone is not planning really well......

8. Mar 4, 2005

### JasonRox

I don't really know anyone who works more than 40 hours.

My mom has 35, sister 35, who are both full-time. The full-time guys at work do work 48 hours every other week, so they average 44 hours.

It seems like only smart individuals work 40 hours or less. Working too much is stupid and a waste of life. I would never sacrifice my time for some company who's going to **** me over on my paycheck.

I'll work hard for those companies who appreciate the work, but nowadays, appreciation doesn't seem to exist.

9. Mar 4, 2005

Staff Emeritus
My two kids are smart and have smart-people jobs, and they work like dogs. My daughter trained as an engineer and is now a project leader of two teams. My son is a tech wizard for an international company. They both work way over 40 hours a week, and come home when they can and crash.

US productivity increased at a rate of about 1.5% per year up to 1995, and at around 2.7% from then to 2001. Since the dot-com bust productivity has been increasing at over 4%; the figures for Q4 2004 were just revised upward and are in accord with that. Some of that is surely technological, and a little (not much) is offshore outsourcing. But a lot of it is companies driving the employees like never before.

10. Mar 4, 2005

### Kerrie

Staff Emeritus
i would say it all depends on the company itself. in my situation, i work 40 hours on average...when i was traveling as the company salesrep, i worked more like 50 hours a week. but, i know of a person who works maybe 25 hours a week as a top manager/owner of a company yet gets paid 50K plus perks that add up to around an additional 25K. it is this typical example that gives Americans the reputation of being lazy, but overall, most Americans are not like this.

11. Mar 4, 2005

### Entropy

Then you might be out of a job.

12. Mar 4, 2005

### Zantra

This is a broad question with an even broader answer. I agree that most white collar workers put in more hours because of several factors, such as competition, going for higher salary/promotion and sometimes just keeping thier job.

I will say this. I used to be hourly, and I worked a lot of overtime. At one point I worked about 90 hours a week(had a 2nd job.) In fact it made up over 20% of my income. Now that they switched me to salaried, I just put in 40, unless it's absolutely necessary. But I'm going against status quo, I know.

This is the rat race, and it blows. That is why I refuse to work longer hours anymore. I'm willing to sacrifice money for quality time that is my own. Many americans can't or won't do that. I see these commercials about vacations - the drug company guy talking about how americans find happiness in the form of a pill, or the mortuary guy talking about how americans work themselves to death. It's funny but ironically true.

Last edited: Mar 4, 2005
13. Mar 4, 2005

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
In most offices, the support staff type employees (i.e., secretaries, file clerks), typically work 8 am to 5 pm or 8 am to 6 pm. In places like factories, where it's shift work and paid hourly, there are three 8 hour shifts a day. Sometimes you can get overtime pay to cover a second shift, but generally that's it, you put in your 8 hours (with one 1 h break for lunch/dinner/coffee - not sure what meal third shift breaks for), and go home.

For salaried employees (those who get paid a fixed amount, no matter how many hours are being worked), it's more that you get paid for a certain job that needs to be accomplished. There are some people who get salaries who do have minimum and maximum hours defined in contracts, and often don't stay to work extra hours. For example, a lot of our lab technicians fall into this category. They show up at 8 a.m. and leave around 5 or 6. Whether or not they stop for lunch, sometimes they just grab a 15 min break for a sandwich, is up to them generally. Those are their normal hours, but they have some flexibility too. If they need to stay late one day assisting with an experiment, they can come in late or leave early another day to make up for it. Or, if someone needs to stay home on a weekday waiting for a repair person, or something like that, then they can come in and get whatever needs to be done on a Saturday instead, or work late several days the next week. The idea is you have a guaranteed paycheck coming to you, and aren't penalized for the slow weeks, but then don't get anything extra for the busy weeks. Hopefully it pretty much evens out.

Then there's the last category, those of us who are salaried and don't get any extra pay for working 60 to 80 hour weeks. Often, the salaries are higher to start. But, the reason you work those hours is more that you have a personal stake in keeping the office/company/lab running. For example, in a law firm, the secretaries and paralegals may work pretty fixed hours, while the associates who want to make partner someday work their butts off; the idea is if they can bring in enough clients and enough money to the firm, they'll be rewarded with a partnership in the firm.

Having grown up in the American culture, that's just normal to me. If you want more, you work harder for it. I have a hard time really understanding how people elsewhere can get anything done with so many holidays and breaks, etc.

14. Mar 4, 2005

### Staff: Mentor

No, aside from the long hours, American companies generally treat their employees pretty well.
Heh - me too. I'm amazed at how much off time people get in other countries (yet we have the reputation as being lazy? ).

nameta9, companies don't need to threaten or abuse their employees. Moonbear is right - Americans really are that driven/competitive.

Another example: my dad is self-employed. He works out of a spare bedroom at my parents' house analyzing utility bills and saving clients money. There's a pretty direct relationship between how much he works and how much money he makes. He's slowed down a little now, but when he started the business he obviously didn't have any clients yet, so he worked extremely long hours to get the business going.

The electrical engineer who consults for my company works alone, out of his basement.

I don't know how common that is in other countries, but there are a fair number in the US who start their own small business.

15. Mar 4, 2005

### Monique

Staff Emeritus
Actually, Americans are known for their workdrive and crazy hours. Also as lazy, but that's because of the lack of physical excersize.

16. Mar 4, 2005

### spender

comparing to europe or japan we are slaves here.

17. Mar 4, 2005

### Norman

That is because they are always at work, and we are great at automating our jobs and daily tasks. Is it assumed that since so many americans are overweight that, as a whole, americans don't exercise? Is this same stereotype applied to other cultures who are larger than average?

18. Mar 4, 2005

### Monique

Staff Emeritus
Compared to Japan?? To my impression Japan is very competitive too!

19. Mar 4, 2005

### jcsd

I thought Japan had worse hours than the US. Conmtinetal Europeans are genrally very lazy (it's their genetics), but in the UK long work hours are pretty normal.

20. Mar 4, 2005

### Monique

Staff Emeritus
I never mentioned being overweight. Generally I'd say that it is true that life in America revolves around driving a car. For me it was almost impossible to go places with a bicycle, but I tried.