Is It Time to Bring Back the 40-Hour Week?

Working hard or hardly working once you pass the 40 mark? The recent controversy surrounding Pasco Property Appraiser Mike Wells gave me pause. I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Pasco County Property Appraiser Mike Wells was unapologetic when he said recently that you will never find his vehicle parked outside his office 40 hours a week.

“Not gonna happen,” he , when asked to respond to the controversy a Channel 10 story created when a reporter showed up to his home one Monday afternoon and found him in his boxer shorts after .

Wells said technology allows him to be accessible to the public at any time, and that he spends his working time out in the field and from home. His office has instructions to forward all calls to his cellphone, even when he’s on vacation. His cell number is made available to all taxpayers, and the only time he doesn’t have it on him is when he’s sleeping; he works year-round, at all hours, so spending 40 hours a week in a government building is not necessary, .

But the . Some agreed that technology has made it possible to work regardless of location; others felt that Wells is responsible for spending a certain amount of time in the office.

And that got me thinking. I am a remote worker. I do not report to an office. Ever. I wake up at 6 a.m. and start answering emails before I’ve brushed my teeth. Sometimes, I’m still answering emails at midnight. I fold laundry while listening in on conference calls. I may be overseeing my children’s homework while scheduling interviews or putting the final touches on a feature, or returning phone calls and answering emails while pushing a grocery cart.

Sometimes it feels like I am always working. Even on my days off, I’m thinking about what I need to do to for work. Because I love it, and because it’s the nature of my position.

It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle.

And there are some days, after weeks on end of living for work, that I fantasize about a job where I can just show up for eight hours at the office, then clock out and be done—physically, mentally and emotionally.

But that never wins out, because I love what I do. I care deeply about the people I work with, and the people who read our stories every day.

Just to be clear, I’m not arguing for or against Wells. His story just piqued my interest because I could relate. I can’t speak to his effectiveness or his passion for his job. But I can speak to being an out-of-the-box employee.  For me, 40 hours in an office is “never gonna happen” either.

The workforce has changed. For better or worse, things are different. We don’t have to be in an office for an allotted amount of time to do our jobs. Technology makes it possible to work round-the-clock, from anywhere. But is it hurting our productivity in the long run?

A friend of mine recently posted this Salon.com article on Facebook that calls for the return of the 40-hour work-week. “…Every hour you work over 40 hours a week is making you less effective and productive over both the short and the long haul,” author Sara Robinson writes.

According to Robinson, for most of the 20th century, the 40-hour work-week was the norm, because anything more than that was considered “stupid, wasteful, dangerous and expensive … while it was the unions that pushed it, business leaders ultimately went along with it because their own data convinced them this was a solid, hard-nosed business decision.”

So is Wells’s reputed accessibility actually eroding his productivity in the long run, if in fact he is available to the public at all times? How about you—are you available to work 24/7? And does it wear on you? Would we all be better off working 40 hours and leaving it all behind, refusing to take calls, answer emails or work on projects after hours?

I didn’t have a cellphone or an email address 15 years ago. If I wasn’t at home, you couldn’t reach me. If I wasn’t at work, you couldn’t reach me there either. I was untethered when I wasn’t on the clock. Granted at that time, I was on the clock as a Chuck E. Cheese hostess, but still. Work was work, and play was play, and family time was family time.

Technology has freed us from the restraints of the traditional office, but blurred the line between work and home life. We may need to redraw them.

Vacations should be vacations, shouldn’t they?

Jeanene Arrington- Fisher August 30, 2012 at 06:23 PM
For me, 40 hours in an office is “never gonna happen” either. I can work very efficiently part time for 3 companies working from home. When one project has me on hold my time is filled with other items that can immediately be addressed. I am sure I am working closer to 60 ours a week - but the dog loves me being at home, laundry and dishes are always done and I never miss a day of work. I know how to shut down work mode - I just do not always choose to do it....
Rene Van Hout September 01, 2012 at 12:51 PM
We work well over 40 hours a week. I remember starting our moving company thinking how much control and freedom we would have. The opposite has been our reality. We usually work seven days a week and haven't taken a vacation since 2007. Technology has been a blessing and a curse. We have fallen slave to it!


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