does my boss expect me to work too much?

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.)

{ 214 comments… read them below }

  1. Craig*

    Being salaried and expected to work longer than 40 hrs/week on a regular basis sucks. Whatever happened to work-life balance?

    I’m currently in that situation and am seriously considering going back to a shift-work job. At least on the rare occasion when I had to work Overtime, I was compensated for it.

    1. AAM Fan*

      Craig, I couldn’t agree with you more. When did 50 hours/week become the new minimum?

    2. C.J.*

      I worked way more than 40 hrs a week in my first salaried position, and when my boss told me that I obviously didn’t take my career seriously because I was asleep when she called me at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning I knew I had to go.

      I’m now working with another company in a salaried position, and I’m so accustomed to working insane hours. My new boss actually told me that while my work was greatly apprecited, this company is big on work-life balance and I need to make sure I enjoy my LIFE. The work can wait until the next work day. Blew my mind…and made me realize I did the best thing ever by leaving my former job.

  2. Laura*

    Consulting firms probably average anywhere from 45-80 hours a week.

    Investment bankers probably average anywhere from 60-100 hours a week.

    During busy season, tax accountants, especially at large tax firms can average around 50-80 hours a week.

    Really depends on the field, but I have colleagues in a variety of different fields, and I am starting to think the 40 hour work week is starting to become a thing of the past. Especially when one can always be accessible via blackberry.

    1. Anonymous*

      At least when I was working as a consultant they paid us straight time whenever we worked over 40 hrs with our hourly rated as a function of our salary divided by 52 weeks at 40 hours a week.

      1. Laura*

        Thats nice! I am in management consulting now at one of the “big firms”. It averages 65-70 hours per week. No overtime. Fully salaried.

        1. Anonymous*

          Its likely your salary was twice what mine was though ;-). Thats one of the things that is interesting about a lot of the jobs that require people to work really insane hours, like management consulting and investment banking, the salaries are also often much larger.

          My friend who was working in i. banking as an entry level employee was making close to the same hourly wage as I was as an entry level environmental consultant but I was working half as much.

          1. Laura*

            Yes, salaries in investment banking are well into the 6 figures for 22 year olds coming out of college. But, they give up their lives. 7 hour day on a Saturday is considered a “break” compared to the 14 hour days any other time.

            Consulting salaries for new grads are not into the 6 figures, but aren’t that far away. Hours are better though, but still in the 60-70 range.

    2. just me...*

      All of which are not only crazy, but pretty unacceptable. As a society, we’ve devalued ourselves so much that we are now at the whim of corporate culture. It is a sad trend that I don’t see going away any time soon.

      1. Anonymous*

        In all of those examples the employees are salaried. Just their equivalent hourly wages are similar. For example, Environmental Consultants work 40-55 hours a week entry level and early 40k. Management consultants work 65-75 hours and earn 60-70k and I Banking they work 80-100 hours and earn 90- 15ok.

        1. Dan*

          If you do the math with you salary and wage estimates for each type of job you are just trading more hours for about the same money. Why would anyone work 80-100 hrs a week for basically the same effective hourly wage? Maybe you get a better bonus and more perks but when would you have time to enjoy them?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Some people want more money and are willing to give up more time in order to get it. Or more prestige, or all kind of reasons. Different people, different priorities.

    3. Anon.*

      Does anyone know how much is expected in insurance? I am less than 3 months into a licenced, salaried position in a small (owner, brother, me) agency and it seems the expectation that I come in early, work through lunch, stay late is way out of wack with anything I was told and agreed to on the interviews.

      Thank you

  3. Catherine*

    Excellent advice. Just as another example of how it can vary, I work in higher education, and the norm is usually 40 hrs per week, with additional hours at the beginning and end of the semester.

    At my current job, many people in my department work random hours and will respond to emails in the middle of the night. However my team has not been explicitly told that we need to do this, so I don’t. I didn’t connect my smartphone to my work email for this very reason. If they expect me to work too much, then they better come out and say it. I willingly work overtime during the super busy times mentioned above – when it’s necessary – but I am not officially required to be on-call 24/7, so I’m not.

    1. fposte*

      Whereas my neck of the higher education woods rarely sees a 40-hour week. So I’d definitely agree with Alison about ascertaining the culture of the particular workplace as well as the industry.

      1. Catherine*

        Yes, I have seen that from other higher ed institutions – just depends on where you are. The university I worked at previously, my department rarely worked over 40 hours, and if we did, it was explicitly required by the director for extenuating circumstances (so maybe 2 weeks out of the year). But then other departments on the same campus worked 45-60 hours most of the year.

        1. JT*

          What fields were these in? In STEM, a lot of grad students and young professors work huge hours. Even in the social sciences, long hours (grading, teaching, writing) are not rare, at least among people who want to get ahead.

          Or perhaps you are talking about higher ed administration?

          1. Catherine*

            I’m sorry, I was referring to higher ed administration and support. I manage tech support for some of our applications. Of course faculty positions often require long hours no matter the time of year, especially if they are research-focused. I have just found that the admin side of things tends to go up and down with the semester.

    2. Cassie*

      I work in higher ed too and I’m one of those people who sometimes answer emails at night (though mostly only if it’s a quick answer). There are also some crazy times when we are working on a proposal and have to make a hard deadline. Thankfully most of the stuff I can do at home (I’ve had to work until midnight before, or on both Saturday and Sunday).

      Then there are other univ positions (say payroll or accounts payable) that would probably not need long hours, except maybe at fiscal close. Or at least they have pretty routine deadlines. For us, a lot of the deadlines pop up out of the blue.

      I’m actually thinking of looking into what kinds of admin/secretarial duties would qualify a position to be exempt. I’m non-exempt right now but I would much rather be exempt. I don’t care about getting paid 1.5x for extra hours – I just have to get the work done anyway.

        1. Anonymous*

          i go all over the uk and my boss will make me do that in a day so he will make me do liverpool to london in a day and do 8hrs on site so that day will be 16hrs he will pay me £48 for the day take home

  4. Jamie*

    “But when I took on the job, I thought I’d be working more like 40 hrs a week.”

    Did they expressly state that during the hiring process? Just curious, since I have never known salaried personnel to make that assumption.

    Between 50-60 is the norm for the people I know – sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less depending on the work cycle and what’s going on.

    I have heard about these 40 hour work weeks – but I’ll believe it when I see it. Until then I will continue to believe they are apocryphal – like unicorns and leprechauns. :)

    1. fposte*

      I think people internalize the 40-hour week along with the list of “but that’s illegal!” things that aren’t illegal. It doesn’t help when one’s employer counts PTO time as hours that translate to a 40 hour week, so employees point to it and say “See?” Yeah, no, sorry.

    2. Andrea*

      Some of the language and usage in the OP’s question indicate to me that she may not be a native English speaker and therefore might be from a completely different culture. If that’s the case–and of course I might be way off here–it’s entirely possible that she has not encountered this and didn’t know that it was necessary to specify before taking the job. Maybe she is from a country where 40 hour work weeks do exist.

      1. Steve G*

        Good article on the history of the 40 hour workweek. Totally depends on the industry – yes, industrial, food service, and retail workers need to have hours limited to 40 hours.

        However, white collar jobs can be different. And even some of those should be limited. But from my experience, I can be productive 10 1/2 hours day. After 11 hours, I start getting brain freezes, etc. But given the fact that I handle maybe 20 tasks and have long term projects and customer relationships to work on, when my brain is fried from doing on type of task, I can quickly pick up something else for an hour, then do something else for 2, etc. But if I worked in a job with a limited # of tasks, yes, 40/hours is it.

        1. Anonymouse*

          “Good article on the history of the 40 hour workweek. Totally depends on the industry – yes, industrial, food service, and retail workers need to have hours limited to 40 hours.”

          Awww, that’s adorable.

          Sorry for the snark. I’m in food service/restaurant-ish management-ish. There are a lot of issues with my job, but one of the biggest is that since I became a salaried employee late last year, my boss seems to be developing the mentality that she can work me to death. I’m pulling between 45 and 50 hours most weeks, and it drops my hourly rate anywhere from $1.75 to $3, which is ridiculous (the latter rate putting me lower than my last hourly raise).

          If I try to tell her she’s overworking me and I really can’t stay late, then she’ll whine that I’m the only person she can trust to do X. Love her to death, but I want to shake her by the shoulders and tell her that if she can’t trust the rest of the stuff to do simple tasks, she needs to cull most of them. If she’s just being dramatic and micromanaging, she needs to stfu and actually trust them to do their jobs. She’s got some real control issues as well as some issues with confrontation.* I know that’s a large part of it, but she doesn’t really grasp that she can’t rely on me for everything.

          I’m basically at the end of my rope with her right now and am just viewing my job as a place to exploit for as many resume bullet points as possible and am hoping I can move right back into an office job by early fall. A nice, boring, 9-5 office job where my biggest job crisis of the day is where to grab lunch. Ugh, give me sanity!

          * Those issues usually manifest as her complaining about most of the staff, but when a solution to her problem is presented along with a one or two line sales pitch [i.e., “here’s my idea and I think it will help us stay more organized/help keep the struggling people focused/help prevent the same three questions from being asked/etc.”], she will go along with it until the policy or system goes live and then I get to hear an earful about how this is wrong and this won’t work and this is a waste of money……despite the fact that we had extensive discussions over that exact policy and she okayed it before going live. To be clear, these are not typically situations where she received feedback from a staff member and modified her opinion based on that. This is 95% her just being herself.

        1. Jamie*

          It’s obviously a personal choice, but people do spend so much of their lives working I’d rather spend more time per week at a job I love than have a little more free time, but hate what I’m doing every day.

          There are definitely people in the other camp who would prefer more free time, though.

          1. Catherine*

            I’m one of them! Maybe that’s why I haven’t climbed the ladder any higher. :)

          2. GeekChic*

            I actually see that as a bit of a false dichotomy. I will not work at a job I hate for 7 hours a day (or even 3 or 4). That said, I also have a life – and my life is not my work (it has been at points in the past so I don’t think having your work be a large part of your life is necessarily a bad thing).

  5. pam*

    I think this is from one of the HR blogs Alison has recommended, but I read these last week and think they’re interesting/relevant:

    I have to read through them more carefully and follow up on the links but it seems that many many people are entitled to overtime pay that are not receiving it.

    The other (bigger) challenge is that if you do want to bring it up with HR, I think you run a huge risk. If anyone has done this or something similar, I’d love to hear it.

    And yeah…in the middle of some 60+ hour work weeks right now.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I love Donna, but I think these articles over-stated the case a bit, particularly when she wrote that you’re “probably” entitled to overtime. You’re only entitled to overtime pay if your job is non-exempt (which is a categorization determined by the government). You can read more about exempt and non-exempt here:

      Most I.T. jobs, managerial jobs, “learned professional” jobs, creative jobs, and jobs where you exercise a good deal of independent judgment are exempt, and those account for a ton of jobs.

  6. Chris V*

    If you’re putting in 60 hours and your coworker is putting in 60 hours then the 2 of you are doing the work of 3 people. That’s why your employer is pushing you. He thinks he won’t need to hire more staff. Your entire department is understaffed. That doesn’t effect just you. That effects all of society. We have millions of people unemployed for wrong-headed thinking like this.

    Further, this ignores all the mistakes and rework that occurs when tired staff make errors. People constantly putting in 60 hours a week perform less than when they just put in 40 hours. So, your boss thinks he’s brilliant when he’s actually being stupid.

    1. Jamie*

      This really varies from person to person. I will agree with you that everyone has a point at which they are past their optimal effectiveness – but 40 isn’t a magic number.

      I don’t know much about the history of labor laws in the US (or anywhere else) so I don’t know how the 40 hour week was determined originally, but many people are quite effective well past 40 hours in a week.

      1. Rana*

        It’s a figure that was derived not from studies about worker effectiveness (which is an employer-centered measurement) but from the belief that people should have a right to a life outside of work. 8 hours work, 8 hours sleep, 8 hours “for what you will” and weekends off for rest and the Sabbath.

      2. Anonymous*

        I am also going to have to disagree with Chris. I worked for a firm where people were regularly putting in 50-60 hour weeks and their productivity was still high. Even if the 20 hours a week extra is at half effectiveness that is a huge boon to a company. Additional employees are really expensive. Benefits, admin costs, 401k etc make more people cost a lot more than just their salary.

        Also, linking unemployment to this type of practice does not make sense. It is not so simple. If employs were forced to limit their employees to working on 40 hours than it is likely many more smaller buisnesses and companies struggling to surivive would go out of buisness because the cost of hiring more people would be too high. I am not claiming to understand what is going on with the economy right now. Things are way to complicated for me to wrap my head around and I guess thats the point. Things are way to complicated to make statements like that.

  7. EM*

    This is why I went to part time when I switched jobs, but I realize this is a luxury that most do not have.

  8. Anon2*

    I’m coming at this from an hourly perspective, so might not apply. Every job has its busy periods where everyone is expected to work extra hours, that’s normal. In jobs/industries where 40+ work weeks are the norm, only you can decided if the salary is commensurate with the work. Personally, I would not like to work 40+ hours all the time. It just isn’t enough time away from work to focus on my health (exercise, cooking at home) and sanity (time for leisure activities, classes, time with friends and family, etc). Working 60-100 hour weeks on a regular basis doesn’t say to me “wow, hard working place of dedicated people”, it says “wow, they need to hire more people or manage their workflow/efficiences better or promise more realistic deadlines to their clients.” One caveat being self-employed or entrepreneurs who are starting their businesses or working extra hard now so they can retire/semi-retire extremely early.

    I just don’t see any particular benefits or actual need to have those kinds of long hours, on a long-term basis.

    1. KayDay*

      I had a friend who often needed to stay real late into the night (about 16-hour days, although only 40-60 hour weeks). Her employer was so worried about people making mistakes from being tired, that they then had a teammate go and double-check all her work. I never could figure out why they had the full team work 16 hours instead of just dividing them into 2 8-hour shifts! There were 8 people on the team and each team member did their work independently, but they all did exactly the same type of work.

      1. Anonymous*

        Perhaps the time to double check the work is less than the the amount of time to do it (e.g. maybe time to find sources or something). That’s the only semi-reasonable explanation that I can think of.

  9. Jamie*

    “Working 60-100 hour weeks on a regular basis doesn’t say to me “wow, hard working place of dedicated people””

    100 hour weeks happen for some, but I feel safe in saying they are very rare. There is a huge difference between 60 hours – which is a long week, granted, and 100 hours which is adding another FT job to an already long week.

    If people were working 100 hour weeks I’d agree with everything you posted. 60? It depends on the company and the work being done whether it’s efficient or not.

    1. Anon2*

      Oh yes, I just put that as the top of the range. I know this isn’t standard at most jobs, but it’s definitely out there.

      My dad works in a refinery, management level, and several times a year he has to put in 60-100 hr weeks. No kidding. He just finished a 5 week period of 80-100 hr weeks because of some eqipment failing during a time when they’re running extra hours anyway. Normally during this time he’d be working more like 60-80 hr weeks. He’s on call 24/7 all year, but during this period he’ll work his regular shift + however many hours, then calls all night long and sometimes going in at 2am, 3am, etc. Like I said, it’s usually “just” 60-75, but sometimes it’s the more brutal 80-100 hours.

      1. Anonymous*

        I left an industry where the hours were regularly 80-100/week. In that particular industry, there was generally at least some OT pay for salaried employees (although never equivalent to the hours that were expected), but there came a point where even the extra pay did not make up for almost never being off the clock.

  10. KT*

    It’s hard to say without knowing more about your industry/company, but let me share this story with you. I was in a similar situation, and I handled it by talking to my team leader. I pointed out that apparent hours worked aren’t the same as productivity. For example, I manage my time well. I prioritize and work hard on my projects while I’m at work. The woman across the hall from me spends an hour on the phone with her husband, takes long lunches, and surfs facebook at work. I’m not interested in tattling on her since it doesn’t affect me, but my point was that in less hours worked I’m actually doing more work than some of my co-workers.
    Our resolution was that my contributions would be measured by my project milestones, not by me working into the evenings for the sake of it.

    1. KT*

      And my manager also said that when she realized I was accomplishing the same amount of work (with high quality results) as others in less time, she didn’t think “she should be here more,” but rather “Wow, she uses her time effectively.”

      1. Anon*

        At my work it would be, “She should be here more.” It’s easier to do numeric measurement of attendance hours than of software developer output. I don’t mind doing a 60 hour week in a crunch, but when the heat is off and the project is over, we have to be butt-in-seat for 45 hours a week even if we can’t scrounge up enough work or training to fill the day.

        1. Katieinthemountains*

          Once my boss said he sometimes felt like I was leaving just because it was five. I asked him if it made a difference to know that I usually eat at my desk – therefore putting in another hour than most of my coworkers before then. He said no. :/

  11. Student*

    Out of curiosity, how do those of you that work 50+ hours a week actually divide up the time?

    Are you working 10-hour or 12-hour days instead of 8-hour days? Are you working 8-hour days during the week, then coming in for 10 hours on Saturday (and on Sunday too)?
    Do you eat dinner at 9 PM, or do you take a dinner break around 6 and then go back to work for another 2 hours before headed home? Or do you head home at ~6 and then work from home for a couple hours each night? I’ve never really gotten a good picture of how these 50 or 60 hour weeks actually work.

    1. Jamie*

      Speaking for myself an average workday is between 10-11 hours – one or two days a week will be between 12-13 hours. 14-16+ are once every couple of months, but then there will be a string of them – they are project based.

      I average a couple of Saturdays or Sundays a month which are between 4-9 hours each. I get more done during this uninterrupted time than I do the rest of the week – at least it feels that way.

      Two weeks out of the year (end of second and fourth quarter) I average 72-86 hours a week – it’s work flow related and I always make a light week using some comp time right afterward otherwise I’m not a whole lot of fun to be around.

      Two weekends a month I make it a point to not work – except the little stuff I can handle via email which can’t be avoided and is no big deal.

      Emergencies all bets are off – I work until it’s resolved. That’s why I work so hard to avoid any – IT surprises are never the good kind.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        “Are you working 10-hour or 12-hour days instead of 8-hour days? Are you working 8-hour days during the week, then coming in for 10 hours on Saturday (and on Sunday too)?
        Do you eat dinner at 9 PM, or do you take a dinner break around 6 and then go back to work for another 2 hours before headed home? Or do you head home at ~6 and then work from home for a couple hours each night?”


    2. fposte*

      The reason it’s doable for me is that they’re not all office hours–I get really, really tired of an office and would rather work 40 office/20 at home than 50 at the office. So I do 8 at the office, come home, do the whatevers, dinner, etc., then work for a few more hours. Weekends I work a few hours each day, with the meaning of “a few” changing seasonally :-). There’s some cyclical mindless stuff that’s doable while playing music or watching TV, so I’ll make a point of saving that for home. And a lot of the home stuff is the stuff that I really like–the reading, the writing–so it’s not like I’m assembly-lining 60 hours a week.

        1. Mike C.*

          No way that’s going to happen if you’re working in Biotech. Not unless you want to turn part of your home into a clean room or laboratory environment.

            1. BW*

              People working in the lab or drug/device manufacturing obviously can’t work from home, but there are many other types of other work in biotech that are straight office jobs, and many meetings are held via web/teleconference. Many biotech companies (inmy area on the East Coast anyhow) supply office employees with laptops rather than desktop computers so that they can work remotely as needed. Certain jobs related to the clinical trial research end are actually home-based and involve a great deal of travel.

              It’s not all about bench research. Biotech companies have to manage huge databases and computing/network infrastructure to support that research as well as people to manage those research projects and analyze all of the data that will be submitted to the FDA for drug/device approval. Bench work is only a small part of the industry.

          1. fposte*

            That’s why I didn’t go into biotech. And, you know, the total absence of science background.

    3. A Teacher*

      I’m a high school teacher so I’m at school from about 6:45 a.m until around 3:15 p.m.-except during my season when I coach then I’m probably there until 5:00 or 5:30. I then go home and either lesson plan, return parent e-mails, update the class blog, or grade for on average 2-3 hours a night during the school year. I think last year I was averaging about 55-60 hours a week.

  12. jmkenrick*

    I’m a Bay Area native and live in work in SF. It is the best.

    My two cents on this issue is that 50-60 hours a week is relatively normal. A lot of companies out here (famously, Google) provide a ton of free amenities and perks for their employees, so that it’s easy and comfortable for people to spend lots of time at the office. I don’t know many people who view this as a bad thing, as it’s an exciting, very social/friendly and casual industry, and I think employers really expect people to be enthused about their work and not think of it as a “just a job.” (Not that OP does this, I just mean to clarify that these are good jobs lots of people love, not slave-driving evil situations.)

    Genentech, which is sometimes considered the founder of biotech, is based out here, and my friends who work there often put in long hours.

    That said, 40 hr a week positions are not necessarily hard to find, but it’s definitely something you’d want to establish during the interview process, as there are plenty of companies that expect you to put in more time than that, especially those in the start-up stages.

    1. jmkenrick*

      P.S. OP – if you’re not from out here, I hope you like it despite this! I think it’s one of the best places in the world.

    2. Jamie*

      “(Not that OP does this, I just mean to clarify that these are good jobs lots of people love, not slave-driving evil situations.)”

      I think this is such an important point. Some people who work a lot of hours aren’t doing it out of fear or draconian management…speaking for myself I don’t have to work the hours I do as often as I do – I’ve been reminded by the powers that be to cut back and take some time off, more than once.

      So it’s not always from a bad place, management-wise.

  13. Anonymous*

    For Biotech or any other STEM field it depends on the company, but 45-60 hour work weeks aren’t uncommon, and neither is working 12+ hours a day, or weekends. But a lot of times, the work times are more flexible, and you’re not comitted to 9-5, because the upper management (should) know that the time it takes to do something might also not fit into a 9-5 model.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      Another Bay Area employee (in STEM) – yes, this is absolutely normal. In critical times I have worked 120 hour weeks. I loved it when I was young. I thought it was exciting. It becomes problematic when you get older and have obligations to family health issues or even maintaining relationships with family members.

  14. GeekChic*

    I work in IT – an area notorious for long hours. For a while I was salaried management and worked 80-100 hours a week. It wrecked my health and was completely ridiculous. I did get days off in lieu of overtime on occasion but that was not required – it was a kindness extended by my boss. Most of my colleagues worked similar hours.

    My schedule now is 37 hours a week (that is considered full time) and I get overtime pay on the occasions when overtime is asked me. The exempt / non-exempt issue no longer exists for me because I don’t work in the U.S. (I did work in the U.S. at my salaried job). My IT colleagues in this country all work similar hours though some work more overtime than me (some work less).

    When you’re considering lifestyle and work-life balance, be sure to consider working in countries other than the U.S. Working over 40 hours a week is not the cultural norm in other countries except in very circumscribed cases.

  15. KayDay*

    I’ve found that while almost everyone needs to work overtime occasionally, a lot of people inflate their hours. (“I spent 2 hours working this weekend” = “I responded to a couple of emails over the course of 2 hours”). A lot of people also count their lunch break as “working” even if all they do is check email. Some industries have an annoying habit of pressuring (or downright requiring) employees to be in the office for many hours, but they don’t necessarily work the entire time.

    Last week, my group of friends (all early-career professionals, in quite a variety of fields) was having a discussion about the hours we work, and we came to the conclusion that most people work 40-50 hours per week on average, even if they claim to be working 60+ hours per week. Here’s how many hours people worked on average:
    -1st year associate at a corporate law firm: actually working 80+ hours per week, but his income is higher than the GDP of a small country (he graduate from a top-10 law firm).
    -hourly/non-exempt legal assistant: paid and required to be in the office for 60-80+ hours per week. In that time she managed to watch every single episode of The Office on netflix.
    -tech company project manager: highly variable. Some weeks he only works 35 leisurely hours, some weeks 80.
    -finance: in the office 70+ hours per week; actually working 30-hours per week (goes to the gym during the work day on a regular basis….worried he would get fired if he left before 9:30pm).
    -accounting consultant: 35-45 hours per week at home office; 45-60 hours when at client site.
    -non-profit manager (me): average 40-45; 35 in slow periods , but 60 in busy periods. I also probably average about 15-20 minutes a day on AAM ;-P
    -political staff 1: 50+ while the total hours are not particularly bad, she regularly needs to go into the office on weekends or in the evening to get stuff out before the next morning.
    -political staff 2: ummm, maybe 30? We aren’t entirely convinced this guy works at all.
    -government employee: exactly 40. not a minute more, not a minute less.

    Everyone agreed that they had to work more than this occasionally during busy periods.

    1. Jamie*

      Granted, not everyone is actually “working” every minute at work…and on non-hectic days I will admit that I spend too much time checking my AAM reader and commenting.

      I mean, it’s definitely not like being in the coal mines or anything :).

      But for a lot of people jobs are stretched out over a longer period of time than 8 hours. For example, I have users which span across two shifts, morning meetings which require me to be here early, and other things which are done after most of the users have left for the day. So I don’t feel too guilty about the time I spend on AAM – because during lulls I’m here if someone has an issue and I absolutely put in more than 8 hours actually working every day.

      The way I look at it posting is time I’m not spending taking a lunch or breaks…although clearly I have some guilt or I would have felt the need to half heartedly justify it to an internet full of strangers :).

      1. Kris*

        “and on non-hectic days I will admit that I spend too much time checking my AAM reader and commenting.”
        Me too.. Like right now I am taking an AAM break..

    2. Rana*

      Oof. I have to say that one thing I disliked greatly about some hourly jobs is the expectation of sitting around in an office when there’s nothing to do, but they still want a body in the chair. One thing I’ve found really great about freelancing is that if I work hard and am efficient, I can “earn” flexible time for other activities. I’d rather have a schedule where I pour myself into a project and bang away at it full blast, followed by off time, than one where it’s a little bit of stuff every day surrounded by long hours of not enough to do. (And, yes, one can ask for more projects, but my experience has been that some jobs simply don’t *have* enough work to keep someone fully occupied all eight hours of every single day. It sounds restful, but I hate it.)

      1. KellyK*

        Yeah, I know what you mean. The other thing about asking for more work is that whether that’s a good idea depends on how your projects are structured and what “more” is available. I pretty much never ask for extra things to do if I’m waiting for something, because I know I’ll get hit with multiple things at once. Instead, I try to make it known that if anyone needs help with the things I do well, they’re always more than welcome to come to me.

    3. fposte*

      Yes, that’s certainly true in some cases, both at and over 40 hours per week. I had a temp job like that and it puzzled the heck out of me–why even bother to have somebody fill in?

      But why doesn’t answering email count as work? Presuming you’re talking work email, that’s absolutely legit work time (as the DOL will tell any employer that tries not to pay a non-exempt employee for the time spent doing it), and it makes sense to concentrate it into specific time frame. One of my continual battles is the fight to keep email from eating my day, so I can only applaud somebody who seems to have found a way to do that.

      1. KayDay*

        It’s not that email doesn’t count as work, but that it (usually) doesn’t take very long to do (and I am referring to exempt employees, where its just an issue of bragging rights for hours worked, not actual labor laws). So, I think it contributes to people inflating their hours. And it annoys me when people inflate their hours because contributes to the culture of expecting people to work 60+ hours per week.

        Answering a few emails while watching TV just isn’t the same as writing a report or other work-y things, especially when the employee isn’t on call and explicitly expected to answer emails at the time. It’s definitely a good 20 minutes of work, but not 2 hours.

        Also, with all over time, I think there is a difference between being explicitly expected to be working and making the decision for one’s self to work overtime. I choose to take 15 minutes check my email on Sunday evenings, because I like to get a head start on my week (or rather, I am not a morning person). That’s very different from being required to do something on Sunday evening.

        1. fposte*

          I agree with you on the inflation thing, but I’m still not buying the email as not counting because it’s less demanding than a report. It counts as work if it’s work, not just if it’s hard work. A lot of my work is absolutely delightful and people envy me for being paid for it; nonetheless, it’s still work.

          Now if they’re saying they worked through lunch because they returned one email with the words “Okay, thanks” appended and then ate for an hour, then I’m with you. But I think the flipside of “it leads to people overclaiming” is a situation where emails don’t count, and therefore it leads to people being expected to handle communications outside of their paid time. And that sucks worse than a little bragging, I think.

  16. Work It*

    I need a life outside of work or I feel homicidal! How do people who work so much stay sane?

    1. Rana*

      Based on my experience with my in-laws (a doctor and a lawyer) it’s because they love their work and most of their “life” takes place at work. But I hear you – I’m much more of a project-based worker than an hourly one, just by personality.

  17. Craig*

    Don’t get me wrong, on occasion I’m happy to stay overtime to finish up what I was doing or sometimes I will take a quick check of the email on the weekend. However, being expected to be on-call at every moment is insane. Same with being expected to stay past the normal quitting time.

    We already have to put in 1+ hours return trip commuting to the office and 1 hour lunch which is likely taken in or around the office. That’s in addition to the work day. Factor in 6-8 hours a day to sleep and you’ve already taken up 70% of your day.

    I would like some time for exercise, to work on my hobbies, to run errands, and to have some leisure. It’s not much to ask.

    1. Anonymous*

      +1!! I work in an office where no one leaves when their official time is to leave. It makes me feel strange to be the first one to leave at the time I’m “supposed to”. I do separate work than they do but when I’m done for the day and no one else is, I feel pressured to stay just because everyone else is.

      1. JohnQPublic*

        Remember back in school when that one kid would ask a question and you thought “Thank goodness! I thought I was the only one that didn’t understand that part!”

        There’s probably at least a few people that are staying not because they want to or they have to, but because they don’t want to be the ‘first to leave’ and stick out. If its important to you, and you can tell yourself you worked a full day, leave. And in doing so, you’ll be that first person and ‘allow’ everyone else to leave.

  18. another anon*

    I have been working bay area biotech labs for a few years (not management). My experience for the most part was 40 hours a weeks, with very rarely a few extra hours here and there to get projects done. The exception was my last job where the company culture was such that 40 hours a week was insufficient (regardless of your work output) and there was a lot of pressure to work longer. I would look for a different job if you don’t like your current one.

  19. Jeff*

    Working longer hours (on salary) than previous generations is common today. Computers have simplified and streamlined many aspects of the workplace but they also create more work at the same time. Ironic. Knowing that it is often expected to work longer hours, it’s really important to find a career that you love. When you love what you’re doing the time goes fast and it rarely ever feels like work.

  20. Job Seeker*

    My husband is in management and their hours can vary. He has to do reviews, performance reviews, expense reports etc. sometimes at home. I think this goes with being in management. When you are in a management position you do not get overtime usually either. A salaried position usually paids very well so it is the way it goes.

    1. Jamie*

      “A salaried position usually paids very well so it is the way it goes.”

      This isn’t always the case. In fact I know a few people who actually ended up making less money when they went salaried because they lost their OT pay.

      For people who routinely log OT pay it’s important to factor that in when you agree to a salary. Getting promoted so you can work more hours for less money isn’t a morale booster.

      1. fposte*

        And that’s the situation Donna’s getting at–where an employer has salaried a non-exempt worker (which is legal–salary’s just a method of pay, not a classification) and then required them to work overtime without overtime pay (which isn’t).

      2. Job Seeker*

        Jamie, I know. It depends on what industry you are in. In some industries you get bonuses as managers. Sometimes more than one bonus a year. This bonus is large. I have never been in management myself, always worked hourly. But, you are right it depends on the management position.

  21. Wilton Businessman*

    I require a minimum of 45. Occasionally there are 50 hour weeks, and occasionally there are 70 hour weeks. You are responsible for the job until the job gets done.

    1. Anonymous*

      What if I get the job done in 35? ;)

      I used to not mind the long hours, but I have more of a life now, so no thanks. Found a new job that paid better and I work 40, no travel.

      1. em*

        Exactly. That’s what drives me nuts about supposedly salary positions; the expectation to be there 40+ hours a week, even if you get the job done faster or have a slow week.

        That’s why I went to part time when i switched jobs. I have no benefits, but I have extreme flexibility and i have a normal work-life balance. (I normally work 30 hours a week)

      2. Jamie*

        I know this wasn’t directed at me, but it comes up in almost every discussion of hours so I thought I would comment.

        For me, if it’s a slow week, as em mentions below, for me that’s fine…because even without keeping track of each minute it never totally evens out if you typically work well over 40.

        But if a job can be done regularly in 35 hours, then I would think there needs to be a discussion about what other tasks can be taken on to fill a normal work week. If this isn’t possible then perhaps it should be a part time position.

        I’m not talking about offices in which this is the case for everyone, but I’ve never worked in one of those. I have, however, seen it where full time personnel don’t have enough work to fill a work week and when they cut out early on a regular basis it breeds resentment because they are getting full time salary and benefits for what is not a full time job.

        Of course people aren’t interchangeable and some tasks can’t be passed along, but many can, and if you have people working well over 40 just to keep their heads above water then no one should be working a lesser week if there are things which can be redistributed.

        1. KellyK*

          I think it depends a lot on how often and why it happens, as well as whether it’s a problem for the people working longer hours. That is, if tasks are distributed unevenly so that Joe routinely has 30-35 hours worth of things to do in a week and Bob routinely has 50-55 hours worth, then if there are things Joe can take off Bob’s plate, they should totally be given to him.

          But if Bob and Joe have the exact same tasks and Joe is just getting done faster (and doing the same quality of work), Joe shouldn’t get more work, because that tends to punish efficiency. Either Joe is just way more efficient or they have different working styles. (Maybe Bob needs frequent breaks for whatever reason and would rather work at a moderate pace for 10 hours than a frantic one for seven or eight.)

          1. Jamie*

            In your example, assuming Bob has adequate performance and there isn’t an issue with his work – then Joe is clearly exceptional. If Joe can do in 20 fewer hours per week what an average employee can do, then I would certainly want to have a long talk with Joe…about his plans, ambitions for his career, how he can grow with the company. Because someone performing at that level should be noticed and offered additional opportunities.

            I think where we disagree is that I don’t see giving him more work as punishment, I see it as giving him more, higher level work so he can advance and bring more value to the office and advance his own career.

            For example if you have two hotel maids and Employee A is working at an average efficiency (backed up historically) of cleaning 40 rooms per 8 hour shift. Then you have Employee B who is doing 40 rooms in 5 hours, and the quality is just as good. If I were their manager I would have a talk with Employee B and see if she would be interested in working on a training program so she can train the others on her methods. Or see if she had the interest in learning some managerial tasks. If not, if she was happy with the position as is then the options would be to either let her leave after the quota was met (which would be more free time and less money) or work a full shift and do more work.

            I would say the same about Bob and Joe, assuming they are salaried…give Joe the opportunities to advance and if he doesn’t want that, then either he works a shorter week (which would mean kicking it to part time and less money) or work for the agreed upon hours for full time.

            What I have a problem with is paying people full time if it is, at least for them, a part time job.

            1. Jennifer O*

              “…if she was happy with the position as is then the options would be to either let her leave after the quota was met (which would be more free time and less money) or work a full shift and do more work.”

              Out of curiosity, what’s in it for her to do more work rather than leave after the quota was met? (Having already established she’s not interested in advancement.)

                1. Jennifer O*

                  But then she’s being penalised for being an efficient worker. Both A and B are completing the same amount of work (in this case a quantifiable number of units), but the one who takes longer gets paid more.

                  I’d missed the part about them being salaried but it seems in a case like this, it doesn’t matter: if B is efficient and effective at what she does, her reward in either case is to have more work (whether or not she wants to advance). What’s the benefit, then, in being efficient and effective?

                2. Jamie*

                  In the example of the housekeepers they are hourly employees. They are paid for the time they work – irrespective of how much they accomplish.

                  The benefit in being efficient and effective, whether salaried or hourly, is positioning yourself for more opportunities which comes along with being an outstanding performer.

                  This will be my last reply because I really don’t understand the argument that work is somehow punitive or that high performers who can do the job in part time hours should qualify for full time salary and benefits – if they choose free time over expanding their job.

                  I just don’t understand the mindset where working as little as possible with no desire to move beyond your current scope is the end goal. Maybe that works for some people – I just don’t get it.

                3. Rana*

                  I understand what Jennifer’s getting at here. One doesn’t work efficiently in order to be paid less; one works efficiently in order to finish a task in less time.

                  Now, some people may want to take that *earned* (because they worked for it by being efficient) extra time and use it for taking on new tasks and responsibilities; one would hope that such ambition is rewarded with additional compensation. But what if it isn’t? What if working harder and more efficiently gets you more work but no increase in pay? What if the extra work isn’t something that gives the employee a chance to learn new skills? What if it’s just more rooms to change?

                  If one is employed by a thoughtful employer who is capable of recognizing ambition and talent, and rewarding it, that’s one thing. But in a case where all it gets you is more of the same, for the same pay as someone who’s doing less work, that’s a recipe for burn-out and it’s exploitative.

                  Also, not everyone wants to be rewarded for efficiency with more work. Some people would rather have more time for non-work activities. If the task gets done in less time than usual, why not pay them the same as their non-efficient co-workers, and reward them by letting them have that time off?

                4. Jennifer O*

                  Thanks Rana. That was the gist of what I was trying to get across. I obviously didn’t express myself well because Jamie (with whom I often agree) really seemed to misunderstand what I meant.

                  Like Jamie, I have no patience for people trying to do as little work as possible. I work hard and expect others to do the same. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.

                  That said, different people have different career aspirations. I’m fortunate to work in a great organisation and I truly enjoy working with all of my coworkers. However, not all of us have the same interest in career advancement.

                  Personally, I continually look for ways to advance my career: I do my work efficiently and effectively and, when I find I have more time, I look for new tasks and projects to take on.

                  However, some of my coworkers have no interest in advancing their careers. They are quite happy with their jobs and, at this point in their lives, have no desire to move or advance. They’re content to simply do their work and then forget about it when they go home. In all other respects, they are good workers: they get their work done, they communicate well with the team, and (importantly (in my view), they are willing to take on new work or change work flows when needed. (Something that’s important in our area, though not often embraced by employees.)

                  Often before when I have worked with people not interested in advancing their careers, they have tended to be people who slack off and do as little as possible while at work. As I said, I have no patience for them. But my current coworkers in particular have shown me that the opposite exists.

                  When I commented earlier, I was referring to the situation that had been described: that there is an industry standard for how much work can be accomplished and that one employee exceeds that industry standard by a great deal. Typically, I would expect that that employee would want to advance and therefore, as her manager, I would give her opportunity to advance. However, in the situation described, the employee has no interest in advancement. In that case, she sounds like my coworkers: not interested in advancement but still doing outstanding work.

                  By saying that her ‘reward’ for being outstanding is to get paid 3 hours less or do 60% more work that other employees doesn’t seem to value her work ethic and value to the company. And it doesn’t seem fair to her when compared to her coworkers. Again, in this scenario the employee is decimating the industry standard, but there’s nothing to indicate that her coworkers are necessarily slackers if they are meeting the industry standard themselves.

                  I don’t know necessarily what the answer should be; however, I think that management should be thinking of ways to actually reward outstanding employees (in ways that are meaningful to the employee). Afterall, these ‘superstar’ employees are a value to the company as well.

            2. Alisha*

              I just don’t understand the mindset where working as little as possible with no desire to move beyond your current scope is the end goal. Maybe that works for some people – I just don’t get it.

              In both of your examples, you’re proposing cutting the pay of your efficient employees because they can get work done faster than others. They’re punished if they don’t wish to take on management duties. Some people aren’t interested in management duties, and should not have to take a paycut because of that.

  22. anon.*

    My former employer had 37.5 hour work weeks (and pay gauged to that amount of time). They guarded it zealously. If you were working more than that, obviously something needed to be fixed. Was there a way to be more efficient? More people? Fewer projects? Obviously there were exceptions to this and everyone had to put in extra time occasionally, but generally, if you were regularly working over 40-45 hours a week, your manager should do something about it. It was pretty awesome–especially since it was a company filled with dedicated, hard-working and smart people.
    I’ve always considered that the gold standard–if everyone is always working insane hours, shouldn’t you be asking why, and trying to fix it? It shouldn’t be the norm–it’s a sign of inefficiency or lack of manpower.

    1. jmkenrick*

      I’m going to disagree with you here. Especially for start-up culture, people are working with limited funds (read: not able to hire more employees) and the need to get a lot off the ground. Getting things done in less than a 40-hour week simply isn’t feasible in that situation.

      1. Mike C.*

        Oh, so just because money is tight then employees should have to work for free?

        Does this mean that suppliers should expect less than full payment for their goods? Does this mean that utilities should go without a few power bills being paid? That the landlord gets stiffed at the end of the month?

        If you can’t manage your cash flow as the owner of a business, you have serious issues that overworking employees for free won’t fix.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But that ignores the fact that the market sets the rates for all those things. Just as supplier set prices based on what the market allows, if employers couldn’t find good workers willing to work those hours, conditions would be different. But people are willing to.

          1. Mike C.*

            If employers can’t find what they want, they whine and complain and donate money until the laws are changed to their favor.

            You cannot give me the “free market” argument when the rules are rigged or when capital can move freely but labor cannot. It’s simply not a free market.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              That’s really not true. There are plenty of labor laws that employers hate — the ADA, for one, which has actually been getting stronger and stronger over the years.

          2. JohnQPublic*

            WE are the market. WE set the rates. And until WE decide that our time and sanity are worth more to us than our paychecks, this is what we’ll get. Ball’s in our court.

            Same with the disparity in work laws for US vs much of the rest of the world. Until they’re forced to have us take vacation, until they’re told they can’t make us work 60+ hour work weeks, businesses are going to do that.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Thanks for saying that. People who want to see change need to speak up for it — organizing, lobbying, contacting your elected representatives. That is how change in this country happens.

        2. jmkenrick*

          I think working for free is a leap.

          I mean, all start-up employees I know are paid (minus some people who founded the company) but they agreed to make less than they might at a more established firm in hopes of the big pay-off you get if the company is successful, as well as love of the game.

          1. Mike C.*

            But the “big pay off” that you’re speaking of (part ownership or profit sharing) is an alternative form of compensation that wasn’t mentioned previously. Being a part owner of a company is really different from simply being an employee. If that’s what you’re speaking of before then we agree.

            I’m arguing against the type of employer that decides folks need to do the work of multiple people to “save some money” and then never compensate the employees for their extra work. That’s the thing I’m arguing against.

            1. jmkenrick*

              Well, yes, that’s why I brought up the example of start-up culture, not coporate culture.

          2. Jamie*

            “I mean, all start-up employees I know are paid (minus some people who founded the company) but they agreed to make less than they might at a more established firm in hopes of the big pay-off you get if the company is successful, as well as love of the game.”

            This. And it isn’t just about profit sharing, or whatever, which is a more direct form of future compensation. A lot of people put in this kind of time both for the love of the game (great wording) and because the experience garnered will reap rewarded in return-0n-resume.

            Paying dues at different points in your career isn’t a bad thing – and can indirectly lead to a lot more money over the course of a career.

  23. KayDay*

    Hey all, I have a related question. Have any of you exempt employees ever received “overtime” or additional compensation for working far more than normal (i.e. for a specific project)?

    I’ve only ever received comp time, and that’s only if I am required to work all day on a weekend. However, my bf was recently complaining that some of his (exempt) co-workers were getting “overtime” pay for their more-than-average hours for a big project, and he did not.

    1. Jamie*

      Were they getting true OT pay and not just cashing out comp time or some kind of bonus program?

      Because doing OT pay for some people in a certain pay grade, some of the time but not all people and all of the time seems like the kind of thing that would make a labor attorney very nervous.

      1. KayDay*

        hmmm, not sure–it’s definitely not related to comp time, but it could be some sort of bonus instead of actual OT pay.

    2. danr*

      Sure… at my old company exempt employees at certain levels could have approved overtime at straight salary. There were also special projects that paid overtime to select employees as needed. Our work week was 37.5 hours.

    3. Anon*

      We don’t get comp time. Someone who stays up all night dealing with an IT service outage needs to be in for a full day the next day. In my old job we didn’t get comp time one-for-one but we could, say, sleep in a little if we were up all night working, no questions asked. It somehow seems disrespectful for an employer to expect one to give up sleep or family time on a moment’s notice and not be willing to offer anything in return. I wonder if they save as much in pennypinching hours as they lose in employee loyalty.

      1. KayDay*

        Ouch–that sucks. I don’t expect one-to-one comp time, but I generally look for employers that use a rule of: the more flexible you are for us, the more flexible we will be for you.

    4. Wilton Businessman*

      Exempt means you are paid a salary not by the hour, so no.

      That being said, I do give bonus and the amount of effort you put in is definitely reflected in your bonus.

      1. Jamie*

        “That being said, I do give bonus and the amount of effort you put in is definitely reflected in your bonus.” and “I don’t expect one-to-one comp time, but I generally look for employers that use a rule of: the more flexible you are for us, the more flexible we will be for you.” from KayDay illustrate the point that when you’re salaried it’s not a 1:1 thing like it is for hourly, but a decent employer will make sure the effort and results are rewarded and that they are not taking advantage of their employees.

        Employee burnout isn’t in any employer’s best interest – and there is a limited amount of time a good employee will tolerate being taken advantage of. Good employees have options and those are the ones employers really shouldn’t want to lose.

  24. Just Me*

    I worked at a place where they changed some of the hourly employee’s to salaried status. They did not change the definition of the job at all. I am pretty sure this was bordering on illegal as I believe you can’t just change from hourly to salary without making sure the requirements for salary status are met? Doing it obviously so they don’t have to pay OT. ( Allison can you weigh in on that please… )

    We were told we can’t leave until all the work was finished. Well in our case the work never goes away, as I am sure in most companies that it the same way. Of course you just have to gauge your day and stay later as needed.
    And I do not know of one company where you come in, in the morning with a complete clean slate of work to do.

    We got emails and p.o.’s all the time. The dumb part was everyone else WENT HOME ! So even if I stayed to see an e-mail asking about production I wouldn’t get an answer until the next morning anyway !

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The distinction that would matter here isn’t hourly versus salaried, but exempt versus non-exempt. If the positions are exempt, then there’s no problem with what they did. However, if the positions are non-exempt, then yes, they’re legally required to pay overtime (salaried or not).

      1. Just Me*

        I don’t remember what we were. We we did not manage anyone or any project, had no power for anything at all, no decision making authority. Basically we were customer services reps doing the usual taking orders, tracking, pricing and so forth. When they changed us to a salaried status those job duties did not change at all no increase or decrease, except to just work more hours with no OT.
        I remember it was kind of a tah-doo at work because the employees were grumbling about them just not wanting to pay the OT and that was the only reason for the change.

        So what is the distiction between a exempt over non? Just curious….
        Thanks…..Good info for the future if needed …….

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          In one of my comments above, there’s a link to the IRS info on the distinction between exempt and non-exempt — that’s the basics!

  25. Tel*

    I’m very happy I don’t live in the USA. More than 40 hours a week? The norm? No overtime? Jesus.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      And other people are very happy to live here, for reasons that have nothing to do with the fact that some jobs expect more than 40 hours a week of work.

      1. Tel*

        Yes, but some of your labor laws are insane. You don’t get parental leave, for one. It always amazes me how a country as important and large as the USA doesn’t have things like that in place for everyone.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Lots of countries have lots of insane laws, in all sorts of realms beyond employment.

          And many people feel that legislating some of these issues causes more problems than it solves.

          I’d rather cut out the U.S.-bashing here, because it assumes widespread political agreement on things that in fact there’s no real consensus on.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Some of them are. And many managers would tell you that we have lots of laws that are unfairly weighted in favor of employees too.

              Regardless, I don’t want to host a debate about it — it gets into political viewpoints, which I generally discourage debating here.

              1. Jennifer O*

                As someone who doesn’t live/work in the US, I think it would be interesting to see a comparison of employer/employee rights in the US. I’ve often thought of moving to the US, but the working conditions give me pause:

                – No overtime if you’re exempt (and it sounds like 50-80 hours is common)
                – No breaks guaranteed by law in most states
                – At-will employment (so you can get fired or have your salary changed at any time)
                – Little-to-no parental leave

                It really seems like employees have fewer rights than employers. It would be interesting to see a direct comparison of the basic employer vs. employee rights.

                [I’m not meaning to be confrontational here. I’m trying to figure out where work/life balance comes in. I have family (and friends) in the US – and moving there for work is a possibility. ]

                1. Jamie*

                  I do a cost-benefit analysis for all big decisions, so this is something I would do if I were thinking of moving.

                  I would make sure to look at all relevant factors, though, not just the labor laws. In other words, tax rates, unemployment, etc.

                2. fposte*

                  Jennifer, it’s worth remembering that the overall US law is the minimum, and that different states (and even municipalities, for big cities) may have additional protections. They don’t necessarily change the picture radically, but sometimes they do–for instance, California’s approach to pregnancy and maternity leave means a considerably greater amount of time available than the federal standard. In general the Southern states tend not to add much in the way of additional protections, while California and Massachusetts are the most likely to have state laws that provide more worker coverage. So consider where you’d actually be going as well as the US generally.

                  And to clarify on the parental leave–there is law about parental leave (Family Medical Leave Act), but not *paid* parental leave. I think you’re probably talking the paid version, but I thought I’d mention that just in case.

                3. Jamie*

                  fposte made a great point about the law being the minimum. I’ve never worked at a company where they offered the minimum legal benefits/protections and no more.

                  Company policies and handbooks are binding.

                  I mean the law doesn’t require companies to give vacation time, but does anyone reading here work for a company with no vacation policy? The government doesn’t dictate salaries beyond minimum wage – but how fast would a company go out of business if they only paid minimum wage to everyone?

                  You just have to look at this blog to see that people get vacation time, promotions, raises, bonuses, etc. even though none of that is required by the government. They aren’tstandardized, so you need to find a company whose offerings are compatible with the things that are your biggest priorities.

                4. fposte*

                  And you’ve actually made a better point than the one I was making–in the US, this kind of stuff is largely set privately, by the employers, so that the law is not actually a predictor of what you’ll get.

                  And that’s the real difference in the ethos, I think. The U.S. belief is the state (meaning government at various levels) limits the egregious excesses while the market drives the norms. One reason why so many people think some things are illegal is because they’re so outside of employment convention. Looking to federal law doesn’t tell you what your employment experience is likely to be any more than looking to the criminal code tells you what your living experience is likely to be.

                5. Jennifer O*

                  Thanks Jamie and fposte. That’s helpful information. I appreciate you giving me a broader view. If/when I decide to make the move, I’ll have a lot of research to do. (As with Jamie, cost-benefit analysis are a must for me.)

            2. Charles*

              It is US bashing when you state that *US* laws are screwed up and that you would rather not live in the US.

    2. Anon2*

      Well, you have to factor in that some jobs are paid very, very well. So even if you work 60+ hours a week you are still making a very high, hourly wage. It’s all the other jobs that also want you to work 60+ hours but are paying you much less where your effective hourly wage could be quite low.

      Ideally, the “lost” overtime wages are factored into your salary so that you’re still coming out ahead but this is not always the case. There are work/life balance issues, but from a salary standpoint this is a good reason to get a bead on the company culture if you can. Though it’s not something I would have thought to ask about outside of careers that are famous for their long hours (law, finance, etc). From reading the responses here, I will definitely be asking more questions to try to find this out once I start looking for a new job.

      1. Tel*

        I would agree that greater pay would compensate for that, but form the comments here and a study on average work hours, it seems the average employee in the USA (85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females) work more than 40 hours per week. Which would mean a lot of those “lower” positions require extra work. I’m not thinking about CEOs or a surgeon who may have lots of commitments, but the average employee handling work/life commitments. And aside from those careers you mention (law, some finance and tech work) I also wouldn’t think to ask “do you work more than 40 hours a week?” though I guess it should be asked since it’s not a given.

      2. Jamie*

        “Well, you have to factor in that some jobs are paid very, very well. So even if you work 60+ hours a week you are still making a very high, hourly wage. It’s all the other jobs that also want you to work 60+ hours but are paying you much less where your effective hourly wage could be quite low.”

        It really depends. Sometimes working these kind of hours are the dues people pay in order to advance to the level where you get the financial compensation that makes it all worth it.

        ITA with your point about looking at your salary and the hours though. There is nothing wrong with choosing to make the sacrifices of long hours for lesser money while paying dues, but it’s always important to take a good unvarnished look at the facts so you know exactly what the deal is.

        I would put this in the top three aspects of a company culture that need to be vetted before a new job. A lack of fit in hours and expectations is a recipe for being miserable.

        1. Anon2*

          “A lack of fit in hours and expectations is a recipe for being miserable.”

          Exactly. Intellectually, I get that when you love your job those extra hours don’t necessarily feel onerus. But either way, I would want a company to be upfront with me about whether extra hours are the norm and whether that is required or highly encouraged or considered “above and beyond.”

          For instance – you love your job and routinely work extra hours. Do you have coworkers or employees who do not work those extra hours as often and do you then feel like they are less committed or enjoying the job less than yourself?

          1. KellyK*

            Absolutely. There are situations where it’s definitely merited, but I think that the expectations need to be clear from the beginning.

      3. Mike C.*

        It’s a bad argument. If the money is really the same anyway, then there’s no reason to calculate the wages of an exempt worker differently from a non-exempt worker.

        It’s really just meant to hide the fact that salaried folks are taken advantage of.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          There are many people working in jobs that require long hours who knew exactly what they were signing up for and don’t feel taken advantage of (and are very happy with their careers). So it’s not black and white.

          1. Mike C.*

            And how many people do you think there are thrilled to work long hours with no overtime versus those who were forced into it by circumstance or changes in the law and are being taken advantage of? How many letters do you get from folks who are on call at all hours without the additional pay?

            Yes, I’m sure we can find some folks who really like what they do and work tons and tons of hours. Most people work to live, not the other way around. I hear nothing but stories of misclassification – and not only exempt/non0exempt but w-2 versus 1099. And when these situations come up, the employee has a choice: either accept the fact they are being screwed, or complain and most likely be fired for “no reason”.

            And then the employer gets the chance to contest unemployment payments. Even when the courts rule in favor of the employee, it’s a great way to scare other employees from “stepping out of line”.

            The abuse is real, and employees have no real power. The few who really really like to work shouldn’t be used to detract from this.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I don’t disagree that that happens, plenty. My point is that it’s not all one way or all the other. It’s not black and white; there’s plenty of grey.

              1. V*

                I think the point is that one group clearly has more power than the other in this relationship and the abuses are predominantly against the employee and the damages are of a different kind, scale, and effect than employees can muster against an employer.

        2. Wilton Businessman*

          I disagree. I have been salaried for about 15 years. I wouldn’t want to go back on the clock again. I think I get paid more as a salaried employee than I would as an hourly employee. In addition, it gives me way more flexibility in terms of my personal time.

          1. KellyK*

            I think how flexible your hours are and how you’re paid are two different things, though. Certainly there are salaried jobs where your start and end time are set in stone and you have to use half a vacation day to deviate from that even a little. Salaried *implies* flexibility, but they don’t inherently go together.

  26. V*

    the exempt/non exempt classification is finagled by every company to their benefit. The actual work that you do is the most accurate test of which category you should be in. Most companies just make everyone exempt regardless.
    What was especially annoying was when I worked for a transportation engineering firm. since no one was paid overtime they loved putting together 60-70 hour weeks because all hours over 40 were pure profit. That seems wrong, if not exactly illegal.

  27. Child of a hard worker*

    My dad worked 70-80 hours + had a long commute when I was growing up. He’d leave before I was awake, get home just before my bedtime (many times after I was asleep) worked most saturdays and many sundays. I barely remember him from my childhood years. I gotta say, it leaves me a little bitter. My nephew sees more of my dad than I ever did.

    I don’t know for sure if he could have done anything else, I can say that I would have preferred to live in a cheaper house or a less expensive part of the country and actually seen my dad growing up. When I hear of all the people putting in 60+ hours a week, I always wonder how many have kids, and how many of those kids don’t get to see one of their parents. (Being able to put work in after the kids are asleep helps, of course – my dad didn’t have the “work from home” option where he worked.)

    Seeing my dad do this was a big reason I never wanted to work that many hours. I’m right at 40, love my job, and make a bit less that I probably could, but also live in a super cheap area of the country. It suits me.

    1. fposte*

      My dad was gone about 12 hours per day as well, and an appalling amount of that was commute. (Another latchkey kid here, since my mother died young.) Interestingly, it didn’t fill me with the desire to work fewer hours, but it made me really keen to avoid spending hours a day in the limbo of commuting, and one of the things that I like about my life right now is the less-than-15 min. commute.

      That’s an interesting point about how our parents’ experiences both pointed us toward and away certain patterns.

    2. Joy Single Mum*

      Yeah. I see askamanager defending a stupid life and acting like we all “signed up for” this. I’ve been in my field over 16 years, and it changed around me as I had a little one and ended up caring for and funding her precious life on my own, while still having to work 55 hour weeks. During the last two years, my mother developed dementia and I had to take on much of her care and responsibility for her affairs.

      The field and work life really changed here in the US up around us. I came to this board looking for some assurance that one could set boundaries at much fewer hours and still be safe from shame and firing.

      But I see that this board manager doesn’t have awareness of real people who must take care of elderly parents with dementia and little ones; people who are in fact brilliant at their work, needed in the office, and have much to offer but at fewer hours than this madness that has developed because people are afraid.

      I guess I’ll stand up and say it, then: I am going to limit my freaking hours myself because I AM the grownup in the room and will tend to what is needed. If they fire me, I will survive. It is a lie that I need them so much worse than they need me. I am done believing the lie. I work very hard and focused while at the office. I give them my best, and it is very, very good. No board is going to reassure me. I will have to do it. Follow me or don’t, folks. We gotta stop this stupidity and be grownups. Work the 40 if you need to. Workplaces will figure it out.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Then do that. I’m not stopping you, and this isn’t an advocacy site. It’s also not here to provide “support”; it’s here to talk about how to manage your career successfully. If you’ve come here looking for assurance or support, as opposed to a discussion of the reality of how things are, you misunderstood the mission of the site.

  28. Sophie*

    I’m a graduate lawyer in a law firm. Industry-wise, the hours are long, but I’ve been lucky enough to find a small firm where the hours aren’t that bad (certainly not 9 to 5, but when I tell people who work at other firms the times I leave each day, they are always jealous). However, I don’t get paid nearly as much as people in larger firms with worse hours – between 5 and 15k less. It’s a balancing act – I choose to work at a smaller firm, with less insane hours, for less pay. Like Alison said, there are places out there that buck industry trends, you just have to search to find them, and be willing to compromise with things such as pay.

  29. -X-*

    Part of my life choices was avoiding long hours. I had many peers from college and grad school who went into finance, law, and management consulting. Not for me. Less money, less work.

    45 hours in a five-day week is sustainable for me. Fifty once every couple months, and 60 a few times a year. More than that and I’m miserable.

  30. Mike C.*

    OP, I used to work in the biosciences, and to tell you the sad truth, you’re screwed.

    A well run place can handle multiple shifts of folks working normal hours, but it looks like you work for one of the bad ones. Expect all sort of emergencies and other stuff keeping you from having a personal life. Last minute experiments you know won’t work, keeping things alive at random times of the day or night, etc.

    Sorry :(

  31. Chris*

    I have been salaried most of my career. Usually the best thing I have ever done is to find ways to work from home and always take my vacation. You may work a longer set of hours if you work from home, but those 15/20-minute breaks to see the kiddies or being able to talk to them when doing work really does mean something.

  32. V*

    at the very least professionals whose labor is sold to a client should be compensated for all the hours that they work.
    That a company can bill 60 hours of your time but only pay you 40 is absurd.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not absurd if you’re an exempt employee who isn’t paid on an hourly basis, but instead is paid to do a job.

      And many people whose employers bill clients for their work hourly have periods when they’re billing under 40 hours a week. I doubt they’d want their employers lowering their paychecks during those times. Plus, employers pay for benefits, overhead, marketing to attract clients, etc. It’s not an apples for apples equation.

      1. KellyK*

        Sure, if you actually do get paid the same when you bill less than 40 hours, then it’s reasonable. If you *must* bill at least 40 hours or take vacation time or leave without pay to make up the difference, then I think you’re being treated as an hourly worker and should be paid like one.

      2. V*

        that’s the cost of having a trained employee who is always there ready to work.
        and that is why companies add a multiplier to their billing rates – to account for overhead and profit and times when workers are not 100% billable.
        when the employee has worked and billed 40 hours those things are satisfied and the firm should either reduce the rate it charges the client or, ideally, continue to pay the worker whose labor they are selling.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Why? The firm has taken all the risk and expense of building the firm, marketing, dealing with legal issues, dealing with loss. If an employee there wants to bill directly for her hours, she can start her own business and do the same. Otherwise, people are hired to do a job, and what the company charges clients is unrelated.

    2. Wilton Businessman*

      Billable hours has nothing to do with actual hours worked.

      When I was consulting, we would typically work 50+ hours a week but only bill for 40. We had all sorts of things that weren’t billable; meeting time, bug fixes, vacation days.

      1. V*

        True but what galls me is the employer passing on the cost of the salary that they are not paying to the client.
        If the firm bills labor at 3x their cost to account for profit and overhead there is no reason other than greed and power not to pay the worker at least straight time.
        Otherwise every hour over 40 is really 3 hours of free work for the employer

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Again, it’s not apples to apples. Exempt employees are hired to do a job, not to tally their hours. If an exempt employee wants to be paid hourly, they can go into business for themselves and bill their clients hourly — but tons of people would never do this, because they (understandably) don’t want all the work and hassles and risk of running a business.

        2. Wilton Businessman*

          Only if it’s billed. For example, if I quote you that I will get your website done in 40 hours, you expect to get a bill for 40 hours. Maybe that takes me 40, maybe that takes me 36, or maybe that takes me 54.

          People rarely look at it from the employer’s standpoint. Sure, you get $10/hr, but do you know that $10/hr costs me about $16?

          Do you expect to get paid on vacation? How am I going to bill that time to a client?

  33. Sandrine*

    I work in France… 35 hours is full time here, and apparently we’re productive enough. Some people do 39, but I am quite happy with 35, and even then I sometimes can’t find a balance!

    This is one of the times when I’m happy to work in France.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      And they pay for your lunch too! But I think I’d rather have my private pension. I think my employer is less likely to default than the state.

      1. danr*

        We thought the same thing… then the pension was frozen and underfunded and we moved to 401k plans.

      2. Sandrine*

        Well, right now my schedule is divided into several types, but I can do 7:30 AM / 2:30 PM or 8:AM / 3 PM (no lunch break but three 10 minute breaks during the day you can take pretty much whenever you like, just gotta ask your Boss/Team Leader first) or 9:30/5:30pm and then I have a one hour lunch.

        For some bizarre reason, I now prefer the days when we don’t have a lunch break, because I can handle the day much better without the big interruption. I’m usually starving when I get out, but I deal by having juice and different things at my desk (they tried to say that wasn’t allowed, but one day I passed out, so now I just am creative in a respectful/clean way and of course I don’t chew or anything while talking to customers) .

        My base salary is about 1,520 US Dollars (rough conversion) per month, and we can get the equivalent of 485 USD more monthly if we meet production goals (I haven’t so far, but that’s another topic) .

        Such a salary wouldn’t allow me to rent an apartment on my own (because here in many parts you have to make three times as much as the rent you’re contemplating to have a chance) . But quite frankly, if done right, given the way the law works and the social security and all that neato stuff, I deal better with such a salary than one of my friends in the US living in New Jersey who earns the equivalent of double as I do (or something) : there are so many expenses that are different from what we have here that it makes my mind very, very confused.

        I love the US with all my heart (I really do), but given the differences, I know that I couldn’t really work there unless I earned 5 times as much as I do now, and even that would be a stretch in many cases I think :)

        (sorry for the long rambling, but I think those discussions are fascinating, I love talking about those cultural/law/employment differences, which is part of the reason why I keep reading here and just can’t stop :P )

        1. Laura L*

          Hmmm… your salary is approx. equivalent to US$18,240. In many parts of the country, it would be extremely difficult to live on that.

          However, in some places, you could live on double that (about $36,000) and in many places, you could live on triple that (~ $54,000). Although, it definitely depends on your expenses.

          Although, $18,000 seems a bit low. Isn’t France a pretty expensive place to live?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s also possible (likely?) that the salary equivalent for that job would be more here, since as Laura says, that’s an extremely low salary for the U.S.

          2. Sandrine*

            Yeah, and I live in Paris, too… but I don’t technically pay rent since I live with my BF, who has owned his own apartment for over ten years. So with that condition in mind I can make it on my own (since I don’t have student debt or a car to deal with or huge expenses and just contribute to the household as much as I can) .

            I have about 300-400 USD worth of bills to pay every month, devote about 200-300 of the rest to household expenses, and can use the rest “as I see fit” (even though for huge purchases I still consult The BF since we’re going on a big vacation at the end of the year :P ) .

            So, if done properly, it’s very much possible to live just fine with such a salary.

            As for the job, I’m just a customer service representative for the cell phones division of an ISP who launched said division in January.

            And it’s pretty much like this : (taken from an unofficial website) , except that my group is on a section with 4-seats “pods” , and there is a “Team Leader” computer every two pods.

  34. Anonymous*

    Hello, thanks for answering my question and commenting on it.
    First of all, I have this job for almost two years and love what I do.
    The reason I assumed that I’ll be working 40 hrs a week was because when I was negotiating in the beginning, not knowing it was a salaries position, I named my price in the hourly rate.
    My boss then got her calculator out and calculated my hourly rate time 40 time 52 and made an offer base on that amount.
    This is my first salary position so I didn’t know I’ll be expected to work 50-60 hrs a week.
    Now I know better.
    Yes, I am not a native English speaker but have been working and living in US for about 10 years.

    1. jmkenrick*

      Oh, that’s awful! Of course you would have requested a higher rate if you had realized it would be more than $40 hours a week. If you’ve been there a while, perhaps you can renegociate salary.

    2. Charles*

      “The reason I assumed that I’ll be working 40 hrs a week was . . . “

      As a trainer, I am often in a grey area as to whether I am hourly or salaried. So, I know to make it clear up front; But, otherwise I find that to be a perfectly reasonable assumption on your part.

    3. Vicki*

      OK. So, you’re telling us that your boss calculated your salary based on a 40-hour work week but expects you to work 50-60 hours. Ans this it the same boss?

      That’s not “normal”. That’s sneaky and unjust.

      Have you asked her why she calculated based on 40 if she was expecting 50 or 60?? I would love to hear her answer on that.

  35. Anonymous*

    I work about 20 hours a week. I’m at work somewhat longer (about 30 hours/week), but only about 20 of that is actual work. In that time I accomplish more than many people that spend 40-60 hours. I’m lucky to work at a place that values output, not hours. But this isn’t all that rare. And part of it is on you, the employee, to go home when you feel you aren’t achieving any more. If your manager asks you about it, then point to all your accomplishments. There’s no reason that any conversation needs to be about the hours you put in rather than what you achieved.

  36. Anonymous*

    Part of the reason people “work” so many hours is that we allow our work to be very inefficient. We spend lots of time on too many meetings and office conversations. We don’t consider how we could save time in our jobs, even if it means a little bit more effort now. We work on things we know aren’t important or that don’t need to be done.

    This doesn’t apply to everyone, but many people are in skilled knowledge-based fields, where they are expected to make decisions about what they spend time on. And yet everyone makes these decisions poorly most of the time. We spend a lot of time on things that are unimportant or not urgent. Sometimes it’s because there’s a “fun” project that you want to work on. That’s totally ok, but you must realize it will cause you to have to work more hours, because the important project will also still have to get done.

  37. Anonymous*

    I work in visitor’s services in a museum. We’re scheduled to work 9 hour days (4 and a half 9 hour days equal a 40-hour week) because we need to be there an hour before the museum opens and half an hour after it closes. While this is fine, we are routinely scheduled to work 6 or more days in a row. Is it unusual for this type of job? Probably not. We don’t have projects to be done, like most jobs, instead we have daily programs and tours. Working over 40 hour weeks comes with the territory. I had a wonderful 6-day week this past week. I really think that it is all perspective. We can’t take it home with us.

  38. V*

    Despite earning a record $4.9 billion profit last year and projecting even better results for 2012, the company is insisting on a six-year wage freeze and a pension freeze for most of the 780 production workers at its factory here. Caterpillar says it needs to keep its labor costs down to ensure its future competitiveness.

    Caterpillar, which has significantly raised its executives’ compensation because of its strong profits, defended its demands, saying many unionized workers were paid well above market rates. To run the factory during the strike, the company is using replacement workers, managers and a few union members who have crossed the picket line.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Do you seriously want to legislate what companies pay their workers? If so, we’re so far apart on this issue (and you’re so far from the mainstream on it) that we should agree to disagree.

    2. Jamie*

      “Caterpillar says it needs to keep its labor costs down to ensure its future competitiveness.”

      Exactly. It doesn’t matter what their profit was for the year – that doesn’t change the market value of the labor.

      If you pay me $15 an hour for a job which is $10 on the market you are not operating efficiently. If you continue to raise my salary based on profits, and not because of my added value, you’re setting up a situation where salaries will become so inflated that the company will eventually topple because that’s just not sustainable.

      A company should be able to decide what to pay for each position, just as an employee has the right to decide if that is a salary they are willing to accept. And employer paying below market rates will lose their good employees (because – to quote Alison – good employees have options) to turnover. A company paying well above market will eventually upend itself because it’s labor to billing ratio will become too skewed as to make it profitable.

      The deal is between the employer and the employee, what are you willing to pay and is that a figure I’m willing to work for. If not the employee can get work elsewhere, but bullying the company into increasing wages isn’t the answer.

    3. Anon2*

      I can’t speak on Caterpillar specifically, but there are so many factors involved in company solvency that it could be greedy executives or it could be a million other things.

      If they’re planning capitol improvements over the next few years, then they’ll be stockpiling cash and/or getting them into a great position to borrow at low rates. They may be gearing up to buy more companies or expand into new markets in a big way. Maybe they’ve been riding the wave of rapid construction in China and see it starting to crest (just speculating, I’m not talking from a knowledge base here), so they’re pre-emptively pulling back for leaner times to come. Maybe they expect to have to pay some big fines from litigation or regulations changes.

      I don’t know, but there can be a million big picture things going on that they’re not necessarily going to discuss with the rank and file. Or, they could be jerkfaces who are preserving their huge incomes at the expense of their employees.

      As someone who is rank and file, who works hard to do her best every day, I do think employee morale could stand more recognition from our executive team – both verbal and monetary (especially monetary).

  39. Vicki*

    My very first job and manager set the tone for the rest of my “career”. I lived far enough away that I wanted to take a vanpool to/from work but that would have me onsite more than 9 hours a day. My manager said “you are paid for 40 hours a week.” and we worked out a schedule whereby on Wednesdays I drove in after lunch.

    At my next job, I brought this up, my new manager said “Many people put in 6 hours a week” and I sad “I’m sorry that those people have no lives outside of work.”

    Since that time I’ve never put in more than 45 hours in a give week. I know people who overwork. I know excellent performers who put in 40 hours a week. That’s important – you need to perform well.

    I also live in the SF Bay Area. I work in SW Engineering. 60 hours a week is by no means mandatory.

    I have a friend who had to quit his job because he’d bought into the 60-hour-a -week idea and it was literally harming his health. There are studies that show that after 40 hours your performance degrades substantially.

    But you need to make the decision to stop doing it. Work smart. Get your wrk done. Tell your manager that overwork is not good for you, your team, or your company. If necessary, find another job.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s great that you’re clear on your boundaries and that you stand up for them, but be cautious about repeating that “they don’t have lives outside of work” stereotypes. Many people have lives outside of work but still work long hours (whether by choice or not); it denigrates them unnecessarily.

  40. Miss Displaced*

    I work in-house creative and a typical week is 40-45 hours.

    Of course, there are some extra-busy weeks where it can be more, due to seasonal or project needs and deadlines. Some places will allow you to bank those OT hours to take later, but many don’t.

    I’m OK with this arrangement, as long as those “busy” weeks don’t happen EVERY week and/or the company actually appreciates and rewards all the extra work by recognition, promotions and raises (and sadly I’ve found that most don’t). The thing is, it is up to you to set limits on what you will or won’t do.

  41. BW*

    I work in biotech, and there are some jobs where working > 40 hrs is the norm. Some companies and some types of companies have more of a reputation for this than others. It’s a small world out on the opposite coast, and people who do my type work all know each other. Word travels fast about expectations and work conditions at the various biotech companies in this area.

    I keep my hours as close to 40/wk as possible for my own sanity, but when a project calls for it, I will put in extra to meet deadlines. It does vary depending on company culture and resources.

    This is where networking can be very important, so you know which companies you may want to avoid because they expect employees to work much more than 40 hours and/or expect them to be on all hours of the day and night, working from home on a company provided laptop after leaving the office for the day.

  42. Mo*

    I don’t mind working over 40 hours / week, but I have to have a weekend. my problem is that its my 6th working weekend now in the row. I’m full time, and this started with my manager asking to just take a quick look at the system in the weekend, and I was ok with it since its like an hour thing, but then my manager started to keep assignments and tasks for Friday and he expect me to finish them in the weekend, which is also fine if I’m banking this time to take with my holiday, but he refuses that I bank this time, I’m in Alberta and there is lots of jobs, and the directors are complaining that people are leaving, so ya, I’m gona leave too but I’m waiting for the right moment when I know for sure that there will be nobody in the company qualified to maintain the system , this way they will have to pay millions to bring a consultants to save their shitty ass.

  43. Greg*

    I’m a software engineer working for a large company. When I joined I asked the number of hours expected to work a week before signing my contact which was quoted at 40 with rare cases of extra hours when there were special circumstances. Joined to find out the culture was closer to 50 to 60 hours a week. Simply just work the 40 unless there is a special circumstances regardless of the culture because otherwise you will be taken advantage of and burned out. I value my health and life more then keeping my job if that really depends on me overworking myself. I’ve still gotten promoted and moving up in the company because the time I am working I give quality. Do yourself a favor and do what you think is reasonable.

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