For most people the reality of working full time means working more than a 40-hour workweek, regardless of agreed upon hours—with the expectation that employees will work until all tasks and project needs are met.
[Related: More Fathers Willing to Make Career Changes for Better Work-Life Balance]
Many employees feel obligated to max out work hours, using nights and weekends as time to catch up, get ahead, or overachieve. Office perception plays its part as well, such as in work cultures where co-workers are viewed as a slackers for leaving on time each day. Last summer, a Gallup survey found that the average for full-time employees was 47 hours—or 46 hours if you isolate those workers with just one job.
Either way, that’s almost the equivalent of an extra business day on top of the usual five-day workweek. Of the more than 1,200 adults surveyed, 21% said they worked 50 to 59 hours while 18% said they worked 60 or more. Another 11% estimated 41 to 49 hours. This means less time with loved ones or time to yourself, significantly impacting work–life balance.
Contrarily, some claim the very idea of work–life balance is obsolete and that a more realistic way to look at discovering a sense of shared work–life coexistence is not from a trade-off point, but from a point of choices you make. Jappreet Sethi CEO of Idea Katalyst expressed his views via LinkedIn and believes work- life integration is an outcome of people exercising control and choices in their life to meet life’s challenges. He says this can be in terms of managing work responsibilities alongside their personal and family needs and that life choices will change based on an individual’s life stage—and it is dynamic depending on the circumstances of an individual.
Then the question arises: what is the current circumstance of America? It’s been reported that Americans have it particularly bad when it comes to working extended hours: 58% of managers in the U.S. reported working more than 40 hours a week. The only country where people work longer hours is Mexico, where 61% said the same. Compare that to China, where just 19% of managers said they work more than 40 hours a week.
Employers may find that over-exhausting employees may not be worth it if it means lowering employee retention rates. Companies may want to consider more flexible hours and schedules in effort to retain happy, dedicated workers.