Since World War II, annual work hours per capita have gone up by more than an hour a year. But in recent years the economy has been underperforming, and work hours have not recovered since their peak in 1999. This week’s Economic Snapshot examines the trend.
According to 2003-07 data from the American Time Use Survey, people employed in the two healthcare occupation subgroups were more likely than those in other occupations to work on weekend days. Thirty-nine percent of healthcare support employees and 35 percent of healthcare practitioners worked on an average weekend day. By comparison, only 31 percent of those employed in nonhealthcare occupations did so. When they worked on weekend days, people employed in both healthcare occupation subgroups also worked more hours than those employed in other occupations. On weekend workdays, those in healthcare practitioner and technical occupations worked an average of 6.5 hours, and those in healthcare support occupations worked an average of 7.3 hours. By contrast, those employed in all other occupations worked an average of 5.5 hours on weekend days on which they worked.
A research abstract (scroll down – page 154) presented on June 9 at SLEEP 2008, the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS), identifies a number of personal health, safety, and patient care issues that support the need for a restorative nap during the night shift among nurses. Currently, barriers exist both within the organization and work environment for achieving naps. A strategy to assist nurses to promote sleep health within the complex context of their own sleep needs, organizational demands, and domestic responsibilities is greatly needed for both critical care nurses and the patients in their care, the abstract noted.
Source: Rex L. Facer, II and Lori Wadsworth
Review of Public Personnel Administration
Vol. 28, No. 2, 166-177 (2008)
For many years, employers have sought to improve employee productivity and work environments. One common strategy is alternative work arrangements, which include flextime, job sharing, telecommuting, and a compressed workweek. In this article, the authors examine the effects of implementing a compressed workweek (four 10-hour days) for employees in city government. This study examines the impact of the compressed workweek schedule on the job satisfaction and work-family conflict of the participating employees. Employees perceived that the alternative schedule increased their productivity and their ability to serve the citizens. Additionally, the authors report that employees working the 4/10 workweek experience lower levels of work-family conflict than their counterparts who are working other schedules, but no significant difference for most measures of job satisfaction. Overall, the authors argue that the impacts of alternative work schedules need more careful study.
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.
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.
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)
Source: Wayne Hall, State News, Vol. 50 no. 3, March 2007
Available technology and a more mobile culture are changing the way Americans work. Studies have found that those who work from home are actually more productive than those working in an office.
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.
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.