I sit in the park, watching my son’s lacrosse practice and typing on my laptop. By the time he is done, I will have put in at least a solid hour of work and I will relish in how much better life has become since I had to stay late at the office behind a desktop computer screen to finish an article.
But with this ability to work where and when I want comes another reality: I’m always on. Sitting leisurely on the sideline at a sports practice is a luxury in which few working parents indulge. Around me are dads shooting off emails from their iPhones and mothers returning client calls.
For those of us with any level of responsibility, a 9-to-5 work day just isn’t a reality. As Miami publicist John David points out: “Work starts the moment you look at your phone in the morning.” Now, more of us who feel like we are working longer hours than we used to are asking, what is an average work day or work week, anyway?
According to the recent American Time Use Survey, Americans ages 25-54 spent almost nine hours a day working or in work-related activities. That compares to about 7.5 to eight hours they spent on job responsibilities just five years ago.
For benefit purposes, many companies consider a minimum of 30 hours a week to be full time, which also is the case with Obamacare legislation. While that may be the minimum, most salaried employees now say they regularly work more than 40 hours and recruiters report that employers expect longer hours from professionals.
“They (job candidates) are going to agree to work whatever hours they have to because they know that there are 10 people behind them, and someone else will fill the spot,” explains Jorge Gonzalez, a partner in Albion Staffing Solutions in Doral.
Gonzalez said companies are strategic in issuing smartphones and tablets to staff to encourage “always on.” “It gives them accessibility to their workers anytime, so the work day could extend as long as the company and the customer dictate. Some people hear the beep at 1 a.m., and they will respond.”
Staffing professionals say they see more employers who advertise salaried jobs as 40-plus hours and more employees willing to take them – but not everyone.
“I think it’s important for employers to be truthful when they are hiring,” said Debra Bathurst, vice president of human resources at Oasis Outsourcing in South Florida. “Some people can’t work over 40 hours. If there is an additional five or six hours of overtime or Saturdays expected, we recommend our clients discuss that up front.”
It’s hard to pin down exactly how much Americans are working, particularly because the number of part-time jobs has risen. Numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show a gradual rising trend in work hours through the 1990s that just recently tapered off, hovering at slightly more than 40 hours weekly.
Even for people who aren’t spending quite as many more hours working as they think they are, there is an explanation for why some might feel overburdened, anyway. When you pair our connectivity with the fact that more women are in the workforce and there are fewer hours when anyone is taking care of household chores, that leaves less pure leisure time once we’re off work.
For the most part, Americans who are working longer hours are white-collar workers who do not punch a clock, don’t necessarily track their hours and have clients or customers to satisfy regardless of the time of day.