How many hours do employees actually work?

In summary, the conversation discusses the concept of full-time work and how it is defined as 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week. The conversation then focuses on jobs with flexible time schedules and the question of productivity in these roles. The participants also discuss the idea of tracking working hours and its impact on productivity and overall job performance. Some express the belief that the number of hours worked does not necessarily equate to productivity, while others mention the need for accurate tracking for project budgeting purposes. Ultimately, the conversation highlights the complexities and nuances of tracking and defining productivity in the workplace.
  • #1
NewUserHere
Most companies specify full-time jobs as working 8 hours per day, or 40 hours per week. Some of these jobs have strict time schedule like between 9-5, others have a more flexible time. My question is more about the jobs with flexible time, since these jobs allow you to stay in the office for as long as you need or necessary.

It's pretty clear in a 9-5 jobs that any unproductive time is counted in the 8 hours work (with what that entails in performance evaluation). For example, if I spend working on a specific app for 6.5 hours from the 8 hours I am allowed to be at the office, I know I was unproductive for 1.5 hours that day. However, with a more flexible time, if I am being productive for 6.5 hours at the 8 hours mark since I started my work day.

Does this mean that I am under-performing given the flexibility I have, and I have to push this number to 8 hours, since I can do that, which means I have to stay at office more than 8 hours (say 10 hours) to achieve this 8 hours on the app I am working on?
 
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  • #2
Probably 48 to 60 hours per week (including weekends) would be normal. I can easily put in 10 - 12 hours per day, and some hours on the weekend.
 
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  • #3
In my personal (and very subjective) opinion, the number of hours means absolutely nothing. In a typical year, I spend 9 months being entirely unproductive and 3 months being highly productive. My working hours vary dramatically depending on whether I am in a productive or unproductive phase. And the unproductive phase is just as important as the productive phase for me - I spend 9 months of the year trying to figure out what it is I'm actually doing, and 3 months of the year actually doing it once I've figured it out. This may be a highly idiosyncratic view of my own personal way of working, but I personally believe that it's not healthy or productive to worry about about how many hours you work in a particular day, week, or even month.
 
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  • #4
Astronuc said:
Probably 48 to 60 hours per week (including weekends) would be normal. I can easily put in 10 - 12 hours per day, and some hours on the weekend.
That sounds like an American schedule, not most of the world.
 
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  • #5
I'm in software.
I read (somewhere) that, in an 8 hour day, an employee will really only get about 5 hours of productive work in a day.

The missing few hours includes meetings, chats, email correspondence, administrivia and housekeeping.

The 8 (or 7.5) hours is still payable, it just doesn't all contribute to the bottom line.
 
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  • #6
madness said:
In my personal (and very subjective) opinion, the number of hours means absolutely nothing. In a typical year, I spend 9 months being entirely unproductive and 3 months being highly productive. My working hours vary dramatically depending on whether I am in a productive or unproductive phase. And the unproductive phase is just as important as the productive phase for me - I spend 9 months of the year trying to figure out what it is I'm actually doing, and 3 months of the year actually doing it once I've figured it out. This may be a highly idiosyncratic view of my own personal way of working, but I personally believe that it's not healthy or productive to worry about about how many hours you work in a particular day, week, or even month.

But what if your productive working hours is being tracked by a software on your computer by the company, and you have to log what you were doing with your remaining time at the end of the work day? How not to think of your actual working and productive hours then? It's not healthy and affects productivity negatively, I agree. And what's the purpose of such a system if not to push you to work more absolute hours, to get from you more actual working hours that you are getting paid for?
 
  • #7
NewUserHere said:
But what if your productive working hours is being tracked by a software on your computer by the company, and you have to log what you were doing with your remaining time at the end of the work day? How not to think of your actual working and productive hours then? and what's the purpose of such a system if not to push you to work more absolute hours, to get more actual working hours that you are getting paid for?
I've been in this sitch.
Our managers constantly assured us it was not to get us to work more hours.

Some companies are big on accurate estimations of project scope and time taken. They are in a constant state of trying to budget how long a project will take (and thus how much they can charge the client) and need accurate figures.

So, (in theory) they don't care about hours of individual employees so much as they care about aggregate hours for a given project. They recognize that not all time spent at work is contributing directly to the bottom line. There should always be a bucket in the time sheet for general administrivia (such as filling out time sheets).I was once on so many projects that needed a tracking that I wrote my own little program (I think in C# or VB) that sat in the corner of my desktop to track which project I was on. It allowed me to change projects with just the click of a button and tracked it to the minute because I was switching back and forth several times an hour (I'd then sum up all the times for each given project.).
 
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  • #8
NewUserHere said:
But what if your productive working hours is being tracked by a software on your computer by the company, and you have to log what you were doing with your remaining time at the end of the work day? How not to think of your actual working and productive hours then? It's not healthy and affects productivity negatively, I agree. And what's the purpose of such a system if not to push you to work more absolute hours, to get from you more actual working hours that you are getting paid for?

That is unfortunate. I would try to avoid such jobs if I had the option to do so. I believe it is counterproductive and I work worse under those conditions. I've been somewhat in that position - we had to log in entry and exit to the office and at the end of the week fill out a timesheet. I believe the company believed it would ensure people worked more effectively, but it undoubtedly had the opposite effect on me. I left after 6 months to pursue a PhD and never looked back.
 
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  • #9
How many hours per day or per week you work depends on the way the company needs to behave internally and the type of work each person does (for "full time" personnel). Often enough some kinds of work just MUST get done, and one needs to work 9 or 10 hours in a day. In some situations or jobs, a company may not tell you that "It's quitting time; clean-up and go home." You would then be allowed, without being bothered, to keep working the very often 9, or 10, or 11 hours for the day - frequently.
 
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  • #10
phinds said:
That sounds like an American schedule, not most of the world.

I learned that it may be about 15 minutes a week for a typical office employee.

 
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  • #11
Let me put it this way: are employees allowed to have variable level of performance and productivity each day for being humans beings with fluctuating physical and mental states each day? Do they have to work variable number of hours each day to achieve what employers expect them to achieve as working time on the app on the flexible time schedule? Is it acceptable to get x hours productivity on average out of y working hours (determined in the contract) by working a fixed number of hours each day, instead of achieving x hours productivity each day by working a variable number of hours (more than y hours) and then getting paid for y hours?
 
  • #12
NewUserHere said:
Let me put it this way: are employees allowed to have variable level of performance and productivity each day for being humans beings with fluctuating physical and mental states each day?
`
First, your use of "human beings" and "allowed" are rhetorical tricks. These tricks aren't helping, and if anything makes you sound like an angry teenager arguing with his boss. I would avoid such tricks.

Second, there is an obvious difference between jobs like "stack these boxes" and "write a best-selling song". Looking at a productivity on an hourly basis makes sense for one and not another.
 
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  • #13
Vanadium 50 said:
`
First, your use of "human beings" and "allowed" are rhetorical tricks. These tricks aren't helping, and if anything makes you sound like an angry teenager arguing with his boss. I would avoid such tricks.

Not sure how you managed to read that into what he wrote. I think that speaks more about you than him.
 
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  • #14
madness said:
Not sure how you managed to read that into what he wrote. I think that speaks more about you than him.
Just so you know, I agree w/ @Vanadium 50

The "human beings" in particular is a rhetorical set-up designed to appeal to emotion, not logic. He's using loaded words to subtly (he thinks) bolster his argument in a way that is actually sophomoric.
 
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  • #15
phinds said:
Just so you know, I agree w/ @Vanadium 50

The "human beings" in particular is a rhetorical set-up designed to appeal to emotion, not logic. He's using loaded words to subtly (he thinks) bolster his argument in a way that is actually sophomoric.

I don't agree that it was used in an emotional sense, he referring to the fact that variable levels of performance are a human factor that should be accounted for. Likening someone to an "angry teenager" seems to be a highly emotional response to what was quite an innocuous sentence in my opinion.
 
  • #16
madness said:
I don't agree that it was used in an emotional sense, he referring to the fact that variable levels of performance are a human factor that should be accounted for. Likening someone to an "angry teenager" seems to be a highly emotional response to what was quite an innocuous sentence in my opinion.
And we will have to agree to disagree.
 
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  • #17
madness said:
Likening someone to an "angry teenager"

Actually, I was describing how the rhetoric made the argument sound.
 
  • #18
Vanadium 50 said:
Actually, I was describing how the rhetoric made the argument sound.

Vanadium 50 said:
makes you sound like an angry teenager

:rolleyes:

I would also quote from PF rules:

"direct personal attacks or insults; snide remarks or phrases that appear to be an attempt to "put down" another member; and other indirect attacks on a member's character or motives. "
 
  • #19
Quote rules all you want. I did not say "you are an angry teenager" (although plenty of angry teenagers would say that is descriptive, not insulting) - I said that using that piece of rhetoric will have the effect of making the user sound like an angry teenager rather than its intended effect.
 
  • #20
Vanadium 50 said:
Quote rules all you want. I did not say "you are an angry teenager" (although plenty of angry teenagers would say that is descriptive, not insulting) - I said that using that piece of rhetoric will have the effect of making the user sound like an angry teenager rather than its intended effect.

I see. Well telling somebody that what they wrote makes them sound like an angry teenager has the effect of making the user sound bitter and curmudgeonly.
 
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  • #21
Vanadium 50 said:
`
First, your use of "human beings" and "allowed" are rhetorical tricks. These tricks aren't helping, and if anything makes you sound like an angry teenager arguing with his boss. I would avoid such tricks.

Second, there is an obvious difference between jobs like "stack these boxes" and "write a best-selling song". Looking at a productivity on an hourly basis makes sense for one and not another.

Interesting, although I anticipated a response like or similar to yours, but all I was saying was that any system (e.g., a time sheet) put forward by management should allow for a variable performance levels by adding the necessary options. Not allowing that puts a huge pressure on employees to meet the hidden expectations designed by the time sheet. For example, if a time sheet allows for working on a certain app which is tracked to the minute, meetings, and QA only, whose total time should add to 8 hours at the end of the day, this implies that if you don't have meetings or QA that day, then you should work on the app for 8 hours, even if that means you have to stay 10-12 hours "working" to compensate your fluctuating performance levels, and any time during which you weren't being active on the app.
 
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  • #22
NewUserHere said:
However, with a more flexible time, if I am being productive for 6.5 hours at the 8 hours mark since I started my work day.

I am not sure what you mean by more flexible time compare to going to an office. At least initially it would seem reasonable for companies to maintain the previous productivity goals. If flexibility means you can start and stop at your convenience doesn't that introduce more unproductive time in recovering your train of thought or thinking about the next break?
 
  • #23
gleem said:
I am not sure what you mean by more flexible time compare to going to an office. At least initially it would seem reasonable for companies to maintain the previous productivity goals. If flexibility means you can start and stop at your convenience doesn't that introduce more unproductive time in recovering your train of thought or thinking about the next break?

By flexible time I mean you can start and finish within a range of hours (say 12 hours), as long as you work the 8 hours mark within this range. And flexible time is not compared with going to an office. I can go to an office, and work flexible time as opposed to a strict working hours, e.g., 9-5.
 
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  • #24
Not all jobs are suitable to flexible time. An air traffic controller can't miss his shift because he monitored extra planes the day before.
 
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  • #25
phinds said:
That sounds like an American schedule, not most of the world.
It's more of a personal choice. I do research, and I enjoy what I do, since for the most part, it's about discovering new things, and some of it is solving puzzles. And I get paid well to do what I do. Of course, I have goals (in the end, I have to deliver a product), but along the way, there are discoveries.

Recently, I assisted a colleague with his work, because I have some obscure reports from the 1970s-1980s that were relevant to his work. Those obscure reports lead to more recent obscure reports, and my colleague informed me that he did not know about those reports, and would have been able to accomplish as much as he did without the information. I have a personal technical library which has many old reports, some going back to the 1950s and 1960s, some of which forms the technical basis of technology being used today. Most of the library comes from my own efforts outside of work, and some comes from retirees who were pleased that someone would preserve their efforts.
 
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  • #26
madness said:
:rolleyes:

I would also quote from PF rules:

"direct personal attacks or insults; snide remarks or phrases that appear to be an attempt to "put down" another member; and other indirect attacks on a member's character or motives. "

Yeah, and then you proceeded to actually insult Vanadium on account of unfounded assumptions regarding his intentions. More than once.

You’re being unreasonable.
 
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  • #27
Let's stay on-topic please. Thank you.
 
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  • #28
This one just as others:
NewUserHere said:
Interesting, although I anticipated a response like or similar to yours, but all I was saying was that any system (e.g., a time sheet) put forward by management should allow for a variable performance levels by adding the necessary options. Not allowing that puts a huge pressure on employees to meet the hidden expectations designed by the time sheet. For example, if a time sheet allows for working on a certain app which is tracked to the minute, meetings, and QA only, whose total time should add to 8 hours at the end of the day, this implies that if you don't have meetings or QA that day, then you should work on the app for 8 hours, even if that means you have to stay 10-12 hours "working" to compensate your fluctuating performance levels, and any time during which you weren't being active on the app.
See post #9.
 
  • #29
1) Let's not hijack the OP's thread with a fight between other people. It's not fair to him.

2) If you have a job where productivity is directly measured by hours worked, then I would suggest that you invest in finding a better job. But, if your happy with that, then go for it. Those jobs are rare, IMO.

If your boss/organization thinks that they can measure productivity by hours on-site, then , IMO, there is a 95% chance that they are idiots or that the people they work for are idiots.

That being said, there are many jobs where you do have to be present to cover your shift. That alone usually isn't a great indicator of quality or productivity. I would bet that it's a small minority of people that end up being fired, not promoted, or not given raises, for not being present than for other reasons.

In my experience, the difference between good and bad employees usually doesn't have much to do with the time clock.
 
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  • #30
NewUserHere said:
But what if your productive working hours is being tracked by a software on your computer by the company, and you have to log what you were doing with your remaining time at the end of the work day? How not to think of your actual working and productive hours then? It's not healthy and affects productivity negatively, I agree. And what's the purpose of such a system if not to push you to work more absolute hours, to get from you more actual working hours that you are getting paid for?
Some companies/industries provide services that they bill by the hour. Obviously, these companies/industries need to track their employees' hours so they can bill their clients properly.

It does surprise me that so many people seem hostile to the concept of punching a timeclock, which is a totally normal thing that has been around for at least a hundred years. There are a lot of people who will not work their allotted hours unless tracked and there are consequences if they don't. And for basic hourly wage employees of course, they get paid based on the hours they work. This isn't a complicated, profound, or unfair concept.
For example, if a time sheet allows for working on a certain app which is tracked to the minute, meetings, and QA only, whose total time should add to 8 hours at the end of the day, this implies that if you don't have meetings or QA that day, then you should work on the app for 8 hours, even if that means you have to stay 10-12 hours "working" to compensate your fluctuating performance levels, and any time during which you weren't being active on the app.
You are way over-thinking this. Meetings and QA are part of the job too. Your employer knows this. You should too.
 
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  • #31
russ_watters said:
It does surprise me that so many people seem hostile to the concept of punching a timeclock, which is a totally normal thing that has been around for at least a hundred years. There are a lot of people who will not work their allotted hours unless tracked and there are consequences if they don't. And for basic hourly wage employees of course, they get paid based on the hours they work. This isn't a complicate, profound, or unfair concept.

I think some of the resentment comes from the fact that these days a lot of people are asked to "punch out" but to then continue working (evenings, weekends).
How bad this is will depend a bit on where you are living. Where I live (London, UK) paid overtime for any form office work is very unusual but people are still asked to fill out time cards.
In my case the system we use where I work only allows us book 7.2 hours per day (not counting breaks) and I should work 36 hours a week. I also can't book time during weekends.

Needless to say I work more than this and being a scientist I also (under normal circumstances) travel a lot which frequently means "lost" Sundays because of travel.

We do need to have a system in place since we need to track time used on different projects (and for different customers when I do commercial work); but I do resent the fact that it is set up in a way which allows my company to advertise "36 hour working week" as a perk.
 
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  • #32
I think the OP hopefully deduces from all these replies that this kind of thing is very situational, not unilateral, and not hypothetical.

You'd have to get more specific about your industry, your type of work within that industry, and most importantly, what you supervisor has to say on the subject.
 
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  • #33
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it.”
- Steve Jobs
 
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  • #34
DaveC426913 is justified saying this:
DaveC426913 said:
I think the OP hopefully deduces from all these replies that this kind of thing is very situational, not unilateral, and not hypothetical.

You'd have to get more specific about your industry, your type of work within that industry, and most importantly, what you supervisor has to say on the subject.
Rules about pay and time worked will be different in all the many companies, jurisdictions, and departments.

Think on this one: A retail shelf restock worker does a regular number of hours of work per week. He is paid according to how many hours he works. He is paid for and strictly works on-the-clock. No off-the-clock time happens.

Think on this one: Lab person in small production company which also designs some of the products it produces - Strict MONTHLY salary for full-time, minimal 40 hours per week work. There is no on or off the clock but a regular start time each day. Normal production works happens 8 hours per day ON THE CLOCK, but there is still some other work (design studies and testing) which MUST BE DONE, even if some of it happens OFF THE CLOCK. The lab person will work average of 10 hours per day, which varies day by day.

Think on one more: Part time teacher(in some non-traditional instruction mode) works on the clock, consistent number of hours per week, may be part of a team of teachers. Pay is hourly by time worked. Some tasks are absolutely necessary and cannot all be done on-the-clock. In one system, teacher MUST and WILL do some of these tasks off-the-clock, and will not be paid for this time. In another system, if teach does do this necessary work off-the-clock then administrator adds extra pay-time just this once, and strongly discourages the p.t. teacher from doing ANY off-the-clock work.
 
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Related to How many hours do employees actually work?

1. How is "work hours" defined?

Work hours are defined as the amount of time an employee spends on work-related tasks, including time spent in the office, attending meetings, and completing assignments.

2. Are breaks and lunch included in work hours?

Yes, breaks and lunch are typically included in work hours. However, the length and frequency of breaks may vary depending on company policies and the type of work being done.

3. Do work hours vary by industry?

Yes, work hours can vary by industry. For example, employees in the healthcare industry may work longer hours due to the nature of their work, while those in the tech industry may have more flexible work hours.

4. How are work hours tracked?

Work hours can be tracked through various methods, such as time cards, time-tracking software, or manual reporting. Employers may also use biometric systems or GPS tracking to monitor work hours.

5. What is considered "full-time" work?

Full-time work is typically defined as working 40 hours per week. However, this may vary depending on the company's policies and the specific job role. Some companies may consider 35 hours per week as full-time, while others may require employees to work more than 40 hours per week.

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