Is the 72-Hour Work Week the New Normal?

If a recent survey is correct, the standard 40-hour week could soon look like vacation. (Vacation, as we know, now looks like you, hunched over your smartphone on the beach, shielding your inbox from the glare with your own body.)

email 

(Photo Credit: BuzzFarmers)

Jennifer J. Deal, a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership in San Diego, recently contributed a post to HBR Blog Network outlining CCL's findings. Surveying 483 executives, managers, and professionals, they found that:

"...60 percent of those who carry smartphones for work are connected to their jobs 13.5 or more hours a day on weekdays and about five hours on weekends, for a total of about 72 hours," Deal said. "Assuming these people sleep about seven and a half hours a night, that leaves only three hours a day Monday-Friday for them to do everything else (e.g. chores, exercise, grocery shop, family time, shower, relax). It also means they spend 62 percent of their waking hours every week connected to work (82 percent on weekdays). That seems like a lot."

Now, "connected" isn't exactly the same as "working," and it's important to note that the survey measured self-perception, not logged work hours, which means that some executives might perceive themselves as working more than they actually do.

But then again, look at this email, quoted in the study, and sent by a partner in an actual law firm to the other attorneys at that firm:

24/7 

(Screenshot via Center for Creative Leadership.)

Hard to read that and think that checking email is optional, and in a scenario where hourly check-ins are mandated, it's nearly impossible to make plans unrelated to work -- like exercising, sleeping more than a few hours a night, or spending time with family.

The authors note that "such explicit instructions" are rare in most companies. But the fact that they exist at all goes a long way toward explaining why many workers feel the need to work 24/7.

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