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Problems with working 40+ hours week

I was reading an article about having less time to do things personally, as a result of working more hours during the work week. I attend a monthly peer group where we discuss business related material and create monthly "To Do's" that we are held accountable to complete before the next time we meet. I would say the majority of every person in the group's To Do's are "exercise, eat better and date nights with spouse or kids". These are the exact things that we give up as a result of the hours we put in as busy executives. It seems to be on everyone's minds often, including my own work place. The problem is what can we do about it? It seems for most of us 50+ hours is the new norm.


Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

Examine what you are doing that causes you to invest 50+ hours a week.

An example, that plagues me at the moment, is that my major client has an office in NY (where the President works) and corporate offices in CA (where my staff works). Hence, I have very long days (on top of the long day since I start early in the morning).

Not every minute is for business, and I do utilize gaps in the day for other clients or personal business; but it still is a long day.

Title: CFO

In short, I believe the answer lies first in "Organization and Planning". This includes both professional and family time. By using one method to set and exercise your time, you can set appointments for business projects, meetings and team collaboration, and then be disciplined and don't vary from that plan. You must be organized - files (separate reference files, working files, and archive files) , project plans that are task driven (start early and plan to accomplish various tasks along the planned timeline), meetings (agendas with action items with start and end times) will add time to your day. Plan your time at home for either morning or afternoon activities with the family and then dovetail that with your business time. Meetings are the time killers - make them productive and to the point, use assistants (proxy) when applicable, and always have the agenda distributed before the meeting.

Remember the family should come first and within that you plan 8 hours per day for business. Try not to mix the two - leave work issues at work and you will have more success at home. I always think "A happy wife makes for a happy life" - give 60% and take 40%.

To put this into practice, I put my overtime (approx. 2+ hours per day) at the beginning of the day and arrive at work between 6:30 and 6:45 am, and leave work at 5:15 - 5:30 pm for home. This way I am working at the office when the family is still sound asleep and then arriving home for a reasonable dinner time and family life. Works for me!

Mitchell Browne
Title: Vice President
Company: 8020 Consulting
(Vice President, 8020 Consulting) |

Good point and well phrased on pre-loading the overtime. Also typically important is regularity - having a 'set' leaving time (as often as possible) makes leaving much easier.

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

I believe you just have to commit to the personal time. There are going to be cases where you have to break the commitment, but it should be rare. On the other hand, expecting a 40 hour work week may be a little to optimistic.

Bryan Fritz
Title: Taoist Finance Officer
Company: Business Consultant
LinkedIn Profile
(Taoist Finance Officer, Business Consultant) |

We all have to evaluate sufficiency in our lives. Here is a parable and business concept from the book the personal MBA that I often share with people struggling with the same issue. We already know this, but it is good to remind ourselves every once in a while.


Once, a powerful executive went on vacation—his first in fifteen years. As he was exploring a pier in a small coastal fishing village, a tuna fisherman docked his boat. As the Fisherman lashed his boat to the pier, the Executive complimented him on the size and quality of his fish.

“How long did it take you to catch these fish?” the Executive asked.
“Only a little while,” the Fisherman replied.
“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more?” the Executive asked.
“I have enough to support my family’s needs,” said the Fisherman.
“But,” asked the Executive, “what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Fisherman replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my friends. I have a full and busy life.”

The Executive was flabbergasted. “I’m a Harvard MBA, and I can help you. You should spend more time fishing. With the proceeds, you could buy a bigger boat. A bigger boat would help you catch more fish, which you could sell to buy several boats. Eventually, you’d own an entire fleet.
“Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you could sell directly to the consumers, which would improve your margins. Eventually, you could open your own factory, so you’d control the product, the processing, and the distribution. Of course, you’d have to leave this village and move to the city so you could run your expanding enterprise.”

The Fisherman was quiet for a moment, then asked, “How long would this take?”
“Fifteen, twenty years. Twenty-five, tops.”
“Then what?”
The Executive laughed. “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you’d take your company public and sell all of your stock. You’d make millions.”
“Millions? What would I do then?”

The Executive paused for a moment. “You could retire, sleep late, fish a little, play with your children, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll into the village each evening to sip wine and play the guitar with your friends.”
Shaking his head, the Executive bade the Fisherman farewell. Immediately after returning from vacation, the Executive resigned from his position.

I’m not sure where this parable originated, but the message is useful:
business is not necessarily about maximizing Profits.

Profits are important, but they’re a means to an end: creating value, paying expenses, compensating the people who run the business, and supporting yourself and your loved ones. Dollars aren’t an end in themselves: money is a tool, and the usefulness of that tool depends on what you intend to do with it.

Your business does not have to bring in millions or billions of dollars to be successful. If you have enough profit to do the things you need to do to keep the business running and make it worth your time, you’re successful, no matter how much revenue your business brings in.

Sufficiency is subjective—how much is enough to continue what you’re doing is a personal decision. If your financial needs are meager, you don’t need that much revenue to keep going. If you’re spending millions of dollars on payroll, office space, and expensive systems, you’ll need much more revenue to maintain Sufficiency.

The more quickly you can reach the point of Sufficiency, the better the chance your business will survive and thrive. The more revenue you generate and the less money you spend, the quicker you will reach the point of Sufficiency.

Once you reach the point of Sufficiency, you’re successful—no matter how much (or how little) money you make.

Reading book:

Pamela Wise
Title: Director/General Accounting
Company: The E.W. Scripps Company
(Director/General Accounting, The E.W. Scripps Company) |

At my company, there was no end to the number of projects and day-to-day work we had to get done in accounting. As a result, I changed departments (and career path) to have more free time. Of course, the new role is also a challenge to learn new processes/procedures which is not a bad thing either.

(Agent) |

This seems like a Dilbert moment. If you become more efficient at your job and complete all your work in 40 hours, there are 2 outcomes. Your boss will either give you more work to do so you do have to work 50 (or 60) hours OR you will be viewed as lazy and not proactive because you have "extra" time (there goes that extra raise and/or bonus).

I guess a third option is continuous job changes due to poor performance reviews. Lots of time with spouse and kids in the food stamp line.

(Controller) |

I find that the it is the culture of the finance/accounting department which dictates whether you are expected to work overtime. I work longer than my co-workers though I do so by coming in early, rarely taking a lunch, and only take a short walking break in the middle of the day. However, when I leave a little after 5 for family time, I don't have support of the team. Until management works reasonable hours, employees will feel that they have to stay just as late to get ahead.

Ern Miller
Title: Co-CEO
Company: Miller Small Business Solutions
(Co-CEO, Miller Small Business Solutions) |

I think we just discovered why America is dealing with obesity...we have more working people, per capita, than the rest of the world. If this is true, we should see a falling obesity rate in America in the past 5 years.

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

It's funny you mention this because I was thinking it and while I'm not a heavy person, I could shed a couple pounds, but while on vacation recently I dropped five pounds in the first few days because we were walking on the beach all day long. As soon as I get back to my "chair" it's right back on! I would think your statement would be true if those that were without work took that time to work on their health, how many do you think actually do that or sit in front of the TV?

Chris Shumate
Title: Accounting Manager
Company: Dominion Development Group, LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Accounting Manager, Dominion Development Group, LLC) |

I am not sure if your comment was tongue-in-cheek or not, however, the obesity problem won't be solved by people working more hours. This is especially true with those of us who sit at a keyboard and desk all day working.

Our food is overall less healthy and we (as a population) are sitting on our butts more. Unhealthy food and lack of exercise attribute, among other things, to the fattening of America.

Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

I just met with a person whose company provides HR services to its client base (a form of managed HR services, not unlike managed IT services). He says that recently companies are calling them for help on "employee engagement" as in:
-how do we keep the folk we want?
-are we paying a key person fairly/market wage

The companies are finding that younger generations are NOT looking to become "lifers" at their first/early employer.

So maybe the question for the leaders (execs or managers) in this group is:
-how do your staff rate you in terms of engaging them or encouraging them to engage?

That stuff is not found in a policies and procedures manual-I think it's in your own attitude to people and the culture you foster.

Comments anyone?

Bryan Fritz
Title: Taoist Finance Officer
Company: Business Consultant
LinkedIn Profile
(Taoist Finance Officer, Business Consultant) |

From someone who is of the younger generation you make some great points Len.

I think the key issues in business today for young people are leadership, purpose and ownership.

In my limited 10 years of real world experience good leadership is hard to find. Let me preface this by saying that my exposure is limited in scope, but having interviewed management teams in at least 100 companies I think I have seen more than most my age. That is not to say that leadership does not exist, but how it is being practiced in many companies does not resonate with young people. To give an extreme example dictatorship is a type of leadership that is extremely effective. However, given the choice to follow a dictator no matter how much someone is being paid is usually not desired. The younger generation are looking for servant leaders (Book - 5 Levels of Leadership). Unfortunately in our culture these types of leaders are a rare bread. I could go into this in great detail for hours, but the point is most people are not engaged because they do not work for leaders they connect with. The real question you should ask yourself is what type of leadership style you present?

The younger generation wants a stake in the game. Now that the internet has given us so much transparency we can all see how much money is at play with incredible speed. If we are all-star players we can see lots of incredible opportunities at our finger tips. The best way to keep the younger generation on board is with ownership. Sure lots of public companies already do this with stock options, but I would argue small business falls well short in this arena. To make it worse the younger generation do not trust companies to fulfill promises. Here is a practical idea I do not see happen a lot, when you give an offer reward longevity at the company. Sure there is vesting of profit sharing and things like that, but really get creative with bonuses, or things that can impact the employee in the near-term on their anniversary dates.

I think the biggest and most challenging key to motivating and keeping young people is giving them purpose in what they do. Unless there is an important social cause to your department, or company this is probably the most significant detriment.

A good company that exemplifies these three above would be I am sure there are many more great examples, but unfortunately they are few in number to the total of companies out there. I think developing our own leadership skills is the best place to start if you want to keep the younger generation on board.

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

Bryan, you hit the nail on the head. The younger generation also doesn't want to be lead by fear or "because I say so" mentality. They want the Why's behind decisions, to be included and know they matter. There are a ton of great books on being a servant leader. I just started reading The Servant by James C. Hunter and he talks about the difference between power and authority. I, like you have worked for people in power. I have learned how to be a better leader by watching what I didn't like from my previous leaders (the Golden Rule). If we are going to keep people engaged and happy in the work place it starts with us no doubt.

Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

Did you ever hear of the management philosophy " The beatings will continue until the morale improves?" I've known some managers in my career who act as if they think it's the only way!

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

Len, Yes I have and find it humorous, not something that should be put into practice but more of a newspaper comic skit. My first real manager was a female and that was her style. I still shudder thinking about her screaming at people like they were animals. No one deserves to be treated that way.

(Independent Consultant) |

People will work for a paycheck, work harder for a person, and work hardest for an idea. A good manager creates the vision and provides the framework for people to do their best and appreciates that his or her goal is to get the best contribution from each member (understanding that each member will bring different contributions and that is okay, and in-fact, desirable).

(Tax/Business Consultant) |

" The problem is what can we do about it? It seems for most of us 50+ hours is the new norm."

What is "it"?

I've worked with various people in different industries and from different cultures (i.e. European, American and Asian). It really depends on the person.
I've noticed that Americans and many Asians work Long hours.

Depending also what one does, a person may work Long hours just to literally SURVIVE! Has anyone ever considered that?!

Just because You work long hours does NOT mean you're Productive!

It's understandable that owners work longer hours since it's their company. Period!
The problem is when owners force.. impose.. whatever you want to call it... to their employees that longer hours are "necessary" for the company to be "successful".

What does it have to do with employees nowadays?
Many are treated as Disposable assets instead of Valued assets.
For many that believe in the mistaken "market driven" approach, you only pay the employees whatever the market sets. Fire and hire and fire and repeat!
THAT is Problem with many businesses, small and large!

Define "success".
Many business people I consulted with, esp. the owners, literally have NO LIFE!
They LIVE for Work instead of Work for Living!

True examples...
Vacation time.. they bring their tablet/smartphone and can NOT Stop using it to connect to the office.
Meal time.. they have their smartphones out and, if it rings... "Excuse me but I've got to take this call!"
When you're visiting their residence, they're always paying attention to their computer or smarphone or tablet.. why? Business!

The Biggest BS that Anyone/Everyone uses... "I don't have time!"
You MAKE the time... to go eat, to wash, to visit friends/relatives, to see movies, to go on vacation, to have sex, blah, blah...
You CHOOSE to make time, even if it's NO time for yourself, including working long hours!

Employees don't really have choice but owners do!

I've noticed that it's the Older generation [elderly/baby boomers] that's like this and now even the younger generation is like this [Millenials/Gen X/Y, whatever].
Notice the trend!

Define "success".
I've met other people who were literally burnt out and left the hectic business world.
Some had money while others did Not!
They started their own companies.
Yet, some of them did the SAME things over and over again... long hours, complaints of no time, blah, blah!
Whilst others... either created their own companies or worked for others but were "happier" even though they did Not make as much money!

So... if "money" or "material wealth" a driving factor in your life?!
The answer is relatively simple... If you are a business owner, YOU CHOOSE how you want to do business, even if it means Living to work. If that's the case, there's NO reason for Any complaints as it's Your Choice!

Employees DON'T have a choice but to show up for work or be fired... let go!

Working LONG hours =/= being productive!
Trying working in the finance/accounting world... lots of paperwork to do and it much of it has Nothing to do with being productive!
Too much rule/regulations to follow = more paperwork!

It doesn't help that if you work in the professional "service" industry....
Your work may be dictated by whatever the information the client provides, even if the client gives it to you in piecemeal bites.

Are you the type of boss to harass.. to micromanage your employees?

There SO many issues involved with NO clear answers!

Topic Expert
Scott MacDonald
Title: President/Owner
Company: AlphaMac Resources, Inc.
(President/Owner, AlphaMac Resources, Inc.) |

Many times we feel pressured into working 50+ hours. The millenials are changing this however. They aren't going to do that. Employers will have to start recognizing this or they won't get good employees.

By the way, back in the day, 60+ hours was not unusual.

Chris Shumate
Title: Accounting Manager
Company: Dominion Development Group, LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Accounting Manager, Dominion Development Group, LLC) |

Scott - I believe you're spot on about millennials. The only caveat to that would be millennial entrepreneurs who regardless of age seem to put in the extra hours no one else wants to.

To Emerson's comment below, working those extra hours are often needed during peak seasons. I typically put in 45 hours during non-peak times. During peak times, I tend to keep it at 50.

NoOne InParticular
Title: Owner
Company: None
(Owner, None) |

Personally as a 25 plus year management employee in corporate world I find the mentality of who works longer and who doesn't take lunches and who comes in at 5 am or stays until 9 pm laughable and a bit disgusting.
No one is paying attention to you if you stay at your desk and eat through lunch. No one cares and they darn sure won't give any kudos for it either. My team always worked 40 hours a week and they got their jobs done while being able to take lunches that I demanded they take. I would rather (as the manager) take a little more work on myself than to have my staff sick and burnt out. We got a new CFO in our department that demanded that all salaried employees would "donate" a mandatory 5 hours a week of overtime. Nope not going to happen and it didn't happen either. It's ridiculous. I flat out told the CFO that I had no intention of becoming a stepford employee like she was and I left the corporation shortly thereafter. I went out on my own and now there are days that I work 10 hours a day but there are more days that I work 4 hours a day and I am done. Phone is off, I am headed to the pool or the jacuzzi or out to lunch with friends. And since I work from home I make more than I did in the corporate world with less headaches and stress of people and traffic to and from work. If a client calls and gets voicemail oops sorry I was in meetings all day.
Y'all want to work 60 hours a week for someone else? Knock yourself out.

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

I love this.

Ross Anderson, CPA, MBA
Title: Controller
Company: TFS Capital
(Controller, TFS Capital) |

I really dislike measuring the work day by hours you are there. What you get done, what the department gets done and ultimately what the company gets done is what matters.

Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

Two comments:
1. Especially for us in finance and accounting, 40+ weeks are common in spurts (month end close, projects, board reports, etc) but it should NOT be a way of life.
2. 40+ weeks from you or your staff for day to day operations IS A SYMPTOM of a problem that should be solved and not accepted as norm. Inefficient process, manpower inadequacy, etc.

(Finance Director / Controller) |

I agree the tone does get set at the top and you are either on the bandwagon or off it. I had some very high-powered bosses in my day. I did not hitch my wagon to theirs because they had no lives.

There's a simple rule of thumb I set for myself - "Never work for a man/woman who does not have a family". They will not care for your life as they have none of their own.

Knew one guy who started his day at home, showed up in the office at 1pm, and worked till 11pm every day. No kids, wife in another state. Mistake I made was trying to keep up with *his* pace.

Needless to say, he had a much larger pot of gold waiting for him at the end of the rainbow. Greed and ego is usually behind this overflow of work into our personal lives if you ask me - often someone else's but it can be our own.

(Controller) |

Had a boss once who sent his employees a comment like this: Bill Gates, Henry Ford, Sam Walton, Steve Jobs, etc had the same number of hours in a day that you do, look what they accomplished.

My response was, " How many ball games, dance recitals, family dinners,etc. did they miss in order to work those long hours?" Having been one who worked 60 hours a week while raising 3 kids, I have learned it is not the amount of time you spend at work, but how productive you are. No, I do not take lunches, but I also leave at 5 to take my daughter to practice or go to the gym. If I have extra work, I can stay to a point, but unless it is a pressing task, it can wait until tomorrow. Family is worth that, otherwise there is no reason to work such constant long hours. (see the fisherman story above).


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