U.S. has ‘Favorable’ Work Hours Compared to Most Countries

Would you believe an eight-hour work week is still the norm for many companies in the United States? Employees, domestic or foreign, are entitled to sign out of their terminals and leave their physical spaces as stated on their contract.

The growth of mobile devices, however, has helped develop the mobile workforce — and regardless of the time that the staff does leave the office, a lot of them still bring their work home. What this means is that they work beyond the prescribed eight hours a day. It is a scenario that is familiar to most of us.

An email from the boss pops into our smartphone while we are enjoying dinner with our spouse and kids; if the header is marked “urgent,” who can resist the urge to click on it and read? Chances are that work-related option will not end there; after the meal is over, we will be opening our laptops or tablets to see to it that the job gets done. Even if it means sleeping at midnight.

This emerging mobile workforce does end up putting more work hours than most employees;

IT Business Edge cites a report that totals their working hours to  a maximum of 60 hours per week or more than 10 hours a day.

Sometimes, they even squeeze in a few tasks during the weekend. And while productivity does rise to the thrill of management, these mobile employees also admit that their stress levels have risen since bringing their work home — or way past the regular office hours.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that many Americans, along with their employers, realize that this behavior should be an exception, and not the norm. Statista says that many companies are consciously putting in programs that will bring in work-life balance. Longer hours are also rewarded with bigger perks or longer vacation days.

Meanwhile, in tech hubs like Silicon Valley where creative employees are driven to create the next tech miracle, 80-hour work weeks are normal. The workforce also embrace these hours and wear them like a badge of honor.

As illustrated in a New York Times article, millennials even declare that the traditional 9-to-5 stint is “for the week.” Many of them eventually want to put up their own company after putting in time with the established ones, and they acknowledge that startups require a commitment that would border on 24/7.

Global mobility managers should take all this in mind once they start orienting their assignees about the companies they would enter. These foreign nationals might land in a more stable firm that encourages flexitime and a family-centric culture, or they might opt to work in one that has the Silicon Valley workaholic culture.  If the assignees are Asian, then chances are they would be used to working long hours, and can acclimatize early.

One thing that the global mobility manager would have to point out ultimately is the so-called long working hours are, well, not punitive by nature. The companies that adapt them do so by choice, and their employees follow suit willingly. If the companies prefer a more balanced working culture, then they are putting systems to see to it that the 60 work week is modified.

That the whole thing boils down to a choice and not an inflexible culture makes all the difference. It is not carved in stone. And while the U.S. mobile workforce is still struggling to restore balance, they are still a far cry from Japan’s “karoshi work culture, where the most devoted employees do get sick or sometimes literally die while on duty.