A reader writes:
How many hours a week is reasonable for a salaried employee to work?
I am in a salaried position and work somewhere between 50-60 hours a week, sometime more. My boss is telling me that it is normal for salaried positions. Most people at my job, including the CEO, do work a lot of hours. But when I took on the job, I thought I’d be working more like 40 hrs a week.
I work in biotech, but my friend, an engineer, also works at least 50 hour a week and sometimes on the weekend. He said that is very normal in his field. I am just very curious what is the norm. I live and work in Bay area, California if that makes a difference.
The length of an average work week varies wildly by field. Some fields are notorious for having long hours, like law, political campaigns, and startups. In other fields, it’s unusual to ever work beyond 40 hours a week.
So you need to know your field, and you also need to know the particular culture of your workplace (which is something you’d ideally find out before you take a job).
In your case, I’d ask people who do similar work at other companies. You might find that your hours are shared by everyone in your field, or you might find that there’s wide variation by company, or you might find that your company has unusually long hours. If you find out one of the last two, then you can decide if you’d rather go somewhere that expects fewer hours.
But in general, it’s certainly true that many, many salaried positions expect and require more than 40 hours of work a week. However, even if that’s the norm in your field, you’re not necessarily stuck with it. You can sometimes find alternatives, whether it’s a company with an unusual culture, or a part-time schedule, or even a variation of the work you’re doing, using your skills but in a slightly different role. (Of course, being willing to compromise on things like salary will make finding these sorts of alternatives easier.)