Americans still think of the standard workweek as working nine to five, Monday through Friday, adding up to 40 total hours. But that’s not our reality. The average full-time worker is putting in 47 hours each week, according to a Gallup survey, nearly an extra day’s worth of time.
About 40 percent of full-time employees say they work exactly 40 hours, but half say they’re working more than that. Nearly one in five say they clock more than 60 hours each week. Thirteen percent of full-time workers have another job, which would extend their hours, but the average number of hours worked for people with just one job is still 46.
America stands out as putting in some of the longest hours. While the workweek has been shrinking among all countries, we’re far behind everyone else. We’re well above average in how many hours we work each year, coming in at number 12 for the longest among 36 other countries and well behind places like Australia, Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Our longer hours don’t mean we’re more productive, either. In fact, the most productive workers put in fewer hours. For example, Germans, who work 1,400 hours a year, are 70 percent more productive than Greeks, who work 2,000 a year. A handful of studies have found that working more than 60 hours a week creates a short-term boost in productivity that disappears after a few weeks.
The difference between the American workweek and everyone else may not just be cultural, but also related to policy. Gallup found that the average salaried worker puts in five more hours each week than someone paid hourly. That could be because hourly workers are much more likely to be covered by overtime law, which requires employers to pay employees time and a half when they work more than 40 hours a week, thus creating a disincentive to push them past that limit. Over time, fewer and fewer workers have been covered by this requirement, however, as only those making less than $23,660 a year currently qualify and other loopholes have shrunk the numbers.
President Obama is aiming to change that by using an executive order to increase the salary threshold and close some loopholes so more workers are covered. If it were updated to those who make $50,440 or less a year, about 10 million salaried workers would have to be paid time and a half for putting in more than 40 hours a week, thus potentially bringing that workweek back into the norm.
Evidence from other countries that have made this very move is that beyond more money in workers’ pockets and a more humane and potentially productive workweek, Americans could end up much happier.