By Jas Singh
This week I was passed an interesting link by one of our clients. Writing in Harvard Business Review, the author Dr. Jennifer Deal had conducted a comprehensive study of hundreds of American professionals to see what the average number of hours a professional works in a week.
The answer? A whopping 72 hours a week!
Or to be more precise – over 60% people worked 72 hours a week. With some working even more than 90!
I’ve been working in the hiring industry for many years but even for me that number is truly mind boggling. To put it in perspective, the study mentioned that other than working or sleeping during the week this meant that the average professional only had THREE HOURS a day to do other things – including commuting, spending time with family (if they’re still there), eating etc. Little wonder finding room for exercising and relaxing is proving a problem in the Western World.
Some of the major reasons for this as are follows:
follow 1) Technology
As I tap away hypocritically on my MacBook, there is no doubt for this surge in work addiction. The wonders of modern technology allows us to connect from anywhere to do anything. But with one big problem – it also prevents us de-connecting.
Checking our smartphones is a part of workday habit. We receive hundreds of messages each day and are used to the constant pinging and vibrating. But like every habit, it’s difficult to just switch off. Used to checking our screens hundreds of time during the working day its just too tempting to “just see” if anything has happened when we are supposed to be walking the dog.
You all know what I mean. We all make resolutions to switch off at a certain time. For a few days everything goes well. But the lines between work and play no longer exist and often a simple reply that should only take 10 seconds results in a few hours in front of the TV in a thwarted attempt to be “free” the next day.
But the next day never comes. Technology and work become addictive.
Another reason for the 72 hour week is even harder to accept. Responding any time, from anywhere has almost become an expectation – from management, co-workers and even customers.
It’s almost as if responding late at night or over the weekend is a sign of great service. An identity that you must be a hard worker – and hard workers are what we want right?
One well know banking CEO I have worked with suffered a major health problem in his 40’s due to his overworking. With the help of a coach he has managed to ensure he leaves the office everyday at 6pm and now even leaves at lunchtime on a Wednesday. The funny thing is, with him now not responding to emails (although he will answer calls if something is urgent) the rest of him executive team has followed suit – since they know he will not respond after 6pm until the next day, often they save it for the next day when he is in the office.
According to him, the culture in the organisation has never been better which is driving increased performance.
Linked to technology, another modern day trend seems to be increased responsibilities across time zones. With technology companies in particular able to grow internationally more easier than ever before, we are all expected to be able to communicate whenever necessary.
Conference calls with management abroad. Negotiating a contract with the international procurement head. Interviewing the new sales rep in China. These activities often cause us to work extra hours – often at late notice.
Bedtime in London is opening time in Tokyo. There’s always something to do.
We don’t need to deploy a big data system to figure out that three hours (scarily often less) of non-work, non-sleep time a day is not sustainable.
Competition, technology and expectations may all be increasing but working harder is simply not possible. We are maxed out.
Despite the appeal of a super hard worker, hiring managers need to realise it is no longer an answer. Efficiency, planning and energy that only come with a balanced life are the true recipe of long term success.
How many hours a week do you work?
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