Fifty years ago the New York Worlds Fair touted all the new technology — computers, lasers, picture phones — all displayed in the dizzying and awe-inspiring Carousel of Progress. Soon, they promised, we would live a life of leisure thanks to labor-saving devices so we could shop from home and watch life go by on huge color TV’s. Work would be a pastime because robots and machines would do the mundane chores and our office would be a dreamworld of paperless interchange.
How’d that work out?
The average cubicle farm, it seems, is where the 40-hour workweek went to die. According to a new survey, a staggering number of American professionals have workweeks that exceed 40 hours.
Virtual meetings software company PGi conducted an online survey of its customers that yielded more than 600 responses. Of those, 88 percent said they work more than 40 hours a week. Roughly a third each said they work between 41 and 45 hours, or between 46 and 50 hours.
Just over one in five said they work more than 50 hours a week. A main culprit in the lengthening of the workweek is technology that lets people work anywhere.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the “always on” atmosphere that’s permeated across our culture,” said PGi executive vice president of strategy and communications Sean O’Brien.
Now we have smartphones and laptops and Bluetooth. The boss can always reach you; the files are never more than a click away, and even those of us who cherish time away and make an effort to get out of the office at the end of the day can still get a phone call in the middle of a beach in the Keys that begins with “I hate to bother you, but where’s the spreadsheet for the budget…?”
As Erik Loomis at LGM notes, “The 40-hour week becomes a joke, both because many people cannot work at all or can only find part-time work while those who do have work have to labor well past 40 hours because the boss can track them.”
And yes, we can now shop at home and watch stuff on huge color TV’s. Of course the biggest market for that is porn. (Or so I’m told.)