Category Archives: Hours of Work

Perceived Insufficient Rest or Sleep — Four States, 2006

Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC), February 29, 2008

From the press release:
About 10 percent of adults report not getting enough rest or sleep every day in the past month, according to a new four-state study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention′s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The data from the four states-Delaware, Hawaii, New York, and Rhode Island-may not reflect national trends. But an additional study conducted by CDC utilizing data from the National Health Interview Study indicated that across all age groups the percentage of adults who, on average, report sleeping six hours or less has increased from 1985 to 2006.

Nationwide, an estimated 50 to 70 million people suffer from chronic sleep loss and sleep disorders. Sleep loss is associated with health problems, including obesity, depression, and certain risk behaviors, including cigarette smoking, physical inactivity, and heavy drinking.

Reducing Overtime Expenditures Using the Fluctuating Workweek Method

Source: C. W. von Bergen, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 33, no. 4, Spring 2008

Modifications to the Fair Labor Standards Act recently promulgated by the Department of labor (DOL) as the FairPay Overtime Initiative have produced an increasing number of workers subject to overtime payments and a concomitant increase in labor costs for firms. To adapt to this changing environment and to control employee expenditures, organizations may wish to examine the applicability of a relatively obscure provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act labeled as the Fluctuating Workweek Scheme. Employers might find this approach attractive because of its advantage of reducing the overtime rate due employees as the number of overtime hours worked increases.

The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown About Telecommuting: Meta-Analysis of Psychological Mediators and Individual Consequences

Source: Journal of Applied Psychology

From press release (APA):

Telecommuting is a win-win for employees and employers, resulting in higher morale and job satisfaction and lower employee stress and turnover. These were among the conclusions of psychologists who examined 20 years of research on flexible work arrangements.

The findings, based on a meta-analysis of 46 studies of telecommuting involving 12,833 employees, are reported in the current issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

“Our results show that telecommuting has an overall beneficial effect because the arrangement provides employees with more control over how they do their work,” said lead author Ravi S. Gajendran. “Autonomy is a major factor in worker satisfaction and this rings true in our analysis. We found that telecommuters reported more job satisfaction, less motivation to leave the company, less stress, improved work-family balance, and higher performance ratings by supervisors.”

An estimated 45 million Americans telecommuted in 2006, up from 41 million in 2003, according to the magazine WorldatWork. The researchers defined telecommuting as “an alternative work arrangement in which employees perform tasks elsewhere that are normally done in a primary or central workplace, for at least some portion of their work schedule, using electronic media to interact with others inside and outside the organization.”

Full study (PDF; 153 KB)

Smashing the Clock

Source: Michelle Conlin, Business Week, December 11, 2006, No. 4013

One afternoon last year, Chap Achen, who oversees online orders at Best Buy Co., shut down his computer, stood up from his desk, and announced that he was leaving for the day. It was around 2 p.m., and most of Achen’s staff were slumped over their keyboards, deep in a post-lunch, LCD-lit trance. “See you tomorrow,” said Achen. “I’m going to a matinee.” ….

….At most companies, going AWOL during daylight hours would be grounds for a pink slip. Not at Best Buy. The nation’s leading electronics retailer has embarked on a radical–if risky–experiment to transform a culture once known for killer hours and herd-riding bosses. The endeavor, called ROWE, for “results-only work environment,” seeks to demolish decades-old business dogma that equates physical presence with productivity. The goal at Best Buy is to judge performance on output instead of hours.

Extreme Jobs: The Dangerous Allure of the 70-Hour Workweek

Source: Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Carolyn Buck Luce, Harvard Business Review, December 2006, Vol. 84 no. 12

Today’s overachieving professionals labor longer, take on more responsibility, and earn more than the workaholics of yore. They hold what Hewlett and Luce call “extreme jobs,” which entail workweeks of 60 or more hours and have at least five of ten characteristics–such as tight deadlines and lots of travel–culled from the authors’ research on this work model. A project of the Hidden Brain Drain Task Force, a private-sector initiative, this research consists of two large surveys (one of high earners across various professions in the United States and the other of high-earning managers in large multinational corporations) that map the shape and scope of such jobs, as well as focus groups and in-depth interviews that get at extreme workers’ attitudes and motivations. In this article, Hewlett and Luce consider their data in relation to increasing competitive pressures, vastly improved communication technology, cultural shifts, and other sweeping changes that have made high-stakes employment more prominent. What emerges is a complex picture of the all-consuming career–rewarding in many ways, but not without danger to individuals and to society. By and large, extreme professionals don’t feel exploited; they feel exalted. A strong majority of them in the United States–66%–say they love their jobs, and in the global companies survey, this figure rises to 76%. The authors’ research suggests, however, that women are at a disadvantage. Although they don’t shirk the pressure or responsibility of extreme work, they are not matching the hours logged by their male colleagues. This constitutes a barrier for ambitious women, but it also means that employers face a real opportunity: They can find better ways to tap the talents of women who will commit to hard work and responsibility but cannot put in overlong days.

Shiftwork and the Law

Source: Robert C. Bird and Niki Mirtorabi, Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, 2006, Volume 27, no. 2

… Professors Bird and Mirtorabi examine and describe shiftwork, the growing practice of working non-traditional hours, particularly in the evening and at night. … ” Shiftwork weakens these bonds between parent and child by reducing contact time and requiring children to remain quiet when the shiftworker sleeps during daylight hours. … If the court in Witter can reject ADA coverage for an employee claiming a psychiatric disability not related to shiftwork, then a court likely will have little difficulty rejecting a pilot’s ADA claim based upon an impairment tied to a particular shift. … Furthermore, the employer’s actions changing the plaintiff to the night shift to accommodate a white employee constituted a component of the harassment leading to an intolerable work environment, and thus constructive discharge. … Without much discussion, the court concluded that “it could not be determined as a matter of law that a permanent transfer to the night shift cannot constitute an adverse employment action. … If at least one court can conclude that working in the face of unnecessary pain and injury can constitute a material disadvantage in employment, certainly transfer to shiftwork, with its host of physical and mental risks, can constitute an adverse employment action under conditions where the effect of shiftwork will be the most severe. …