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Workaholism In America Is Hurting the Economy 710

An anonymous reader writes Work/life balance is a constant problem in the tech industry. Even though experienced and mature engineers have been vocal in fighting it, every new generation buys into the American cultural identity of excessive work being a virtue. Each generation suffers for it, and the economy does, too. This article backs up that wisdom with hard numbers: "The 40-hour workweek is mostly a thing of the past. Ninety-four percent of professional workers put in 50 or more hours, and nearly half work 65 or above. All workers have managed to cut down on our time on the job by 112 hours over the last 40 years, but we're far behind other countries: The French cut down by 491 hours, the Dutch by 425, and Canadians by 215 in the same time period. ... This overwork shows up in our sleep. Out of five developed peers, four other countries sleep more than us. That has again worsened over the years. In 1942, more than 80 percent of Americans slept seven hours a night or more. Today, 40 percent sleep six hours or less. A lack of sleep makes us poorer workers: People who sleep less than seven hours a night have a much harder time concentrating and getting work done."
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Workaholism In America Is Hurting the Economy

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  • by TigerPlish ( 174064 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:11PM (#47311111)

    You say that now.

    Get back to us 20 years from now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:15PM (#47311139)

    I love having a roof over my head and some food, hard to be picky when the "job creators" hold all the cards. But hey, maybe less regulations, lower taxes and more h1b visa's will make things better! /s

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:16PM (#47311151)

    totally people are addicted to working longer hours. Not, maybe, and this is just a shot in the dark here, the proles are being taken advantage of by the bourgeoisie, business as usual.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:19PM (#47311171)

    Finding a job is not as easy as it once was in today's job market. If you don't like your job then recommend you suck it up and keep it, because mobility isn't always present.

  • job security (Score:4, Insightful)

    by confused one ( 671304 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:22PM (#47311199)
    what were we talking about? sorry tired. Hey, my 80 hour work-weeks are what kept me employed during the recession. They couldn't fire me -- I was doing too much work for next to no pay. Yeah, I made a few mistakes. But I fixed 'em. Sure, my salary history will work against me when I go apply for another job. At least I stayed employed in my field. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need some more coffee before I pass out at my desk.
  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:25PM (#47311219) Homepage Journal

    Seriously. Try getting by on $30-35K a year. Now try doing it WITH KIDS.

    Cost of living alone is insane. Let alone other things, like an apartment/house, utilities, etc.

    Now have a bad month or two. Or get sick, or injure yourself in a way that prevents you from working. Rent/mortgage don't pay itself!

    Most people in this country aren't working +40 hours because they WANT to, or because they LIKE it.

    They're doing it as a buffer to stay ahead of instantaneous bankruptcy and poverty in case they cannot work for some reason.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:37PM (#47311305) Homepage

    The intersection between stuff I'd love to do and the stuff people would pay me to do = Ø, particularly if I got paid to do it. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy with my job (37.5 hour work week, decent pay with overtime, 5 weeks vacation, interesting and meaningful work) but I don't love it and it's not something I'd do without the paycheck. If you can't really think of anything else to do than work, you must have a very gimped imagination. I'm sorry.

  • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:42PM (#47311333)

    The problem is, even if you have a job that you love (and I do), that doesn't mean that you want to (or that it's healthy to) spend every waking moment doing it. Variety is important for a healthy life.

  • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:44PM (#47311351)

    Uhh, you realise that the other countries highlighted, where this is going better, are more socialist than the US, right?

  • by The Grim Reefer ( 1162755 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:45PM (#47311365)

    If you do not enjoy work then that is the problem to be fixed. Find a job you love.

    After several decades I've decided it's better to work at something you enjoy. Every time I've done something I loved for a living, someone found a way to make me hate it.


  • by nitehawk214 ( 222219 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:46PM (#47311367)

    I get 10 unpaid compulsory holidays a year. If I do come in to work on those days, I don't get paid any extra.

    And you will be told you have to come in on those days because the company isn't doing well, and not put it on your timesheet in order to not get your boss in trouble. Failure to comply will show up in your next raise... if you are lucky enough to be employed by then.

  • by nitehawk214 ( 222219 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:47PM (#47311377)

    And the fact we are in an intentionally shit economy keeps everyone on edge.

  • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:50PM (#47311401) Journal

    We've been following the Reageanist philosophy since the 80's and things have steadily declined. Data from the last 30 years prove you wrong.

  • by sandytaru ( 1158959 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:54PM (#47311431) Journal
    I work my 45-50+ hours a week minimum like everyone else in tech land, but I also normally only have a 10 minute commute. (I'm currently visiting another office and the commute is 30 minutes from my hotel, bleah.)

    I know people who are losing two hours of their life a day commuting each way, in addition to working our nasty hours, leaving fewer hours to actually live. It's either cut out eating or sleeping, and thus it's usually sleep that takes the hit.

    I could make twice as much money if I committed to a horrible commute but I value my free time too much.
  • by TsuruchiBrian ( 2731979 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:06PM (#47311507)

    Calling it "Workaholism" implies we have a choice.

    Calling it "Workaholism" actually implies we are addicted to "wrokahol", and the notable feature about addiction is the lack of choice. Maybe some would argue that alcoholics can decide not to be addicted as hard as this may be. I would also argue that workers can decide not to accept jobs that overwork them.

    If you don't like it there's not much you can do. The job market sucks, and it's never going to get any better. Off-shoring and abundant work Visas guarantee that. You're given X amount of work to do and Y amount of time and if you don't do X you're fired, so you put in extra hours. Again and again and again. Heck, it's even worse for the Visa holders. They're practically indentured serfs. If they don't put the hours in it's back to where they came from with a black mark to boot. And those are the guys we're competing with for jobs....

    Well if the job market is so terrible (for employees) and never getting better, then the obvious thing to do is to exploit that and become an employer. You can hire people for essentially nothing, and rake in huge profits for doing very little work.

    Heck, is it just me or can nobody in the American Media do anything except blame the workers? Maybe it's because the capitalists own the media... Heck, I don't know.

    I don't really see anyone blaming the workers. I do see people suggesting that workers take appropriate steps to protect their interests. Maybe workers should learn skills that indentured serfs don't have. Maybe workers should take advantage of a world with cheap unskilled labor rather than being a part of the unskilled labor force and therefore causing a higher supply to demand ratio of unskilled labor (as I implied earlier). Maybe workers should actually vote. Workers clearly have an electoral advantage. They, however, continue to vote for republicans and democrats that are selling them out to corporations (or simply don't vote at all).

    Is it "blaming the workers" to point out the actions that workers could do to achieve their goals? Is it "blaming the workers" to tell them that no one is going to fight for them if they won't fight for themselves?

    If you want something, you need to fight for it. No one is going to just give it to you. If you're strategy is "complaining" about it, then it had better be at a level that causes politicians to be voted out of office, because what is happening right now isn't doing anything.

    "In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve." --possibly Alexis de Toqueville or Joseph de Maistre

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:15PM (#47311555)

    "Don't mourn. Organize"

    Don't let the bosses control the work place.
    Don't let the union leaders become bosses.
    You have to fight for it, then fight to keep it.

    Or you'll get used up.

  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:17PM (#47311579)

    Oh that's cute. You think hours = productivity.

    That's what's killing the American worker. And the sad thing is, this was known to be false 100+ years ago.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:19PM (#47311593)

    Been there, done that, earned the burnout.

    It just ain't worth it.

  • by radarskiy ( 2874255 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:23PM (#47311619)

    All things have a marginal utility. Either you are proposing a 168 hour workweek or we are just haggling about price.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:32PM (#47311683)

    And people ask what unions are for...

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:32PM (#47311687)

    In this economy, the question is rather whether you're not well enough connected to find something else. Skill plays little role anymore when it comes to unemployment.

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:33PM (#47311693) Journal

    Thanks for proving wage slaves don't exist, John. I was all worried that many people are economically stick in crap jobs, but your anecdotal story has proven how wrong I was.

  • by Richard Dick Head ( 803293 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:41PM (#47311731) Homepage Journal
    Exactly. BUT, if you're exempt and working more than 45 hours a week you are a chummmmp. So many positions out there just don't require it.

    And not only that, if you put up with it, you are making the problem worse for the rest of us.


    YOU are the market. If you are putting up with BS, then YOU are making it that way.

    If you are underpaid, and overworked, and yet have put up with it for the last 10 years, YOU are the problem. And you're pulling the rest of us in the wrong direction.

    I mean, I found what I was looking for in my current position:
    * 40 hour work week (more like 38-ish)
    * friendly, non-hostile atmosphere
    * vary my time slot spontaneously and not worry about being "late"
    * generous vacation (>3 weeks right off the bat)
    * company sponsored outings for coffee and such
    * getting compensated more than any of my other positions, even accounting for inflation and cost of living

    It's still work, but work doesn't get better than that. But, to get there, I had to job hop 3 times and move my crap around because of all you fat whiny farkers out there who just sit there and take BS that doesn't have to be tolerated, making the rest of us have to go out of our way to avoid any employer you've slimed with the miserable inertia of your big fat lazy ass :P

    Morale of the story...keep jumping positions, cities, hell countries until you find a good work environment. Every two years. Chop chop.
  • by mckellar75238 ( 1218210 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:43PM (#47311757)
    I've read comments above about loving your job, about pressure from management, about socialism, about Obamacare, and none of them seemed really to address the issue -- at least, as far as I could see. I worked in IT for 25 years, plus another 15 or so in other fields. I absolutely loved programming, the others just paid the bills, but there was one constant: my productivity maxed out at about 45 hours a week. If I worked 50, I didn't get any more done (net, i.e., after fixing errors) than if I had only worked 40; if I worked more than 50, things just got worse. I'm sure I lost some job offers along the way, because I was always careful to ask about overtime and then describe my experience if I was told it would be significant. Yes, I would work overtime if it was necessary; if it needs to be done, then "suck it up" is the rule of the day. But long term, heavy overtime costs more than it gains -- even if it's unpaid.
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:49PM (#47311781)

    That's at least what I tell my people. I can't use them if they burn out.

    I made that mistake once and lost a very valuable employee that way. I didn't notice it. He was always around and, hey, who doesn't like an employee who seemingly never sleeps? Until one day he didn't show up anymore. Burnout. Boom, gone. To understand how severe that really is, it takes AT LEAST three months for someone to get our workflow down. If, and only if, they are not only clever but also know the relevant underlying security protocols and process systems. Else, double it. Including the hiring process, the screening, the preparation and all the crap associated with HR and security procedures to actually get someone into our crystal palace, from the moment you decide you want someone to the moment he is actually a full member of your team... let's put it that way, conception to birth is faster.

    So we had the additional workload of that person for a whole year on our shoulders. Which, as you can imagine, nearly costed me more people due to overtaxing.

    Never again. Of course I can't protect myself and my team against one of them having an accident or even becoming unable to return to work forever. Even though risky sports are already "unofficially" disallowed (can't really outlaw them legally 'cause what you do in your spare time is your business, but it is "frowned upon". Let your imagination come up with what this means in a corporate environment...).

    But at the very least I can ensure that I don't add to the problem. Nobody here clocks more than 40 hours (unless the fecal matter got into contact with the air transportation device, and then you will go and take those hours out as soon as you can).

    I don't need my people to spend time in the office. I need them to get stuff done. That can mean that I might suddenly call them at some rather odd hours and ask them to come in, but I don't see any compelling reason to keep them around when there's nothing to be done on time. It's an agreement we have, and so far both sides can live perfectly with it.

  • by Guy Harris ( 3803 ) <> on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @10:00PM (#47311835)

    It may nor be socialist, but one of the biggest problems is Obamacare.

    Yup, a lot of the ideas came from that big socialist left-wing think tank the Heritage Foundation [].

    It absolutely kills small businesses.

    So maybe MOAR SOCIALISM [] would help here.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @10:01PM (#47311837)

    You may not have a choice at the office. You do have a choice at the ballot box. Americans have a remarkable tendency of voting for anti-labor politicians. THAT is the difference between work-yourself-to-death-and-be-proud-of-it U.S.A. and work-sane-hours-and-enjoy-living Europe.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @10:01PM (#47311839)

    And with most US workers having drunk the capitalist koolaid, Forming unions or even mentioning the word 'socialism' to attempt to increase working conditions is taboo.

    In the meantime, in most of Europe worker actually enjoy paid holiday, usually more than 24 days (excluding public holidays), which they are able to use when ever they like.

    Why do workers keep voting in people who don't represent their interest (though US workers don't have much of a choice).

  • by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @10:08PM (#47311865) Homepage

    *BOOM* Headshot!!!

    So, ignore Chas. It's all Regan propaganda bullshit. Only the Democratic party can save you. If only you dumb fucks could see the light of day and realize that socialism is the answer. The rich will never go away, so taxing the middle-class is how we pay for the poor and their little brood-lings.

    Sorry Chas, your realistic answer is far too dangerous for the ministry of truth to allow!

  • no. Certain industry group keeps spouting the myth the economy is in bad shape. Looking at the numbers, are are far from shit these days.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @10:53PM (#47312061)

    I got 2 weeks up front for signing the paper on my first day of an entry level job + federal holidays, dunno what your problem is other than being a doormat.

    Oh, is that what it is. Being a doormat. I thought there were fewer jobs than there were people looking for work.

    I know some bleeding heart is going to pop in and say economy and joblessness rates and blah blah blah,

    Ah, of course: stating the realities of the supply and demand market is "bleeding heart."

    Well, have fun. Your hard work has clearly served you well, and it's not like others work as hard as you do, or they'd be in your job and you'd be unemployed. It's not like you were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. It's definitely your hard work.

    well I started in early 2012, and was unemployed since early 2011 and still worked nearly every single day thanks to one up jobs from the computer store around the corner when they got overwhelmed and seasonal temp jobs for more than minimum wage.

    Well that's nicel Wait, you worked for the computer store and seasonal temp jobs for more than minimum wage? You were fucking lucky. In one of my previous jobs, at a computer store, when we got more work in than I could handle it meant that I just had to stay late. Every night. For free. That lowered me to about $5/hour beneath minimum wage.

    My previous job had me working similar hours, and I was only $2.60 beneath minimum wage. I did start taking my breaks, until they gave me a written warning and a threat of dismissal.

    But I guess it's just that I wasn't working hard enough, with a few 13 hour days and weekend work sprinkled in, and no pay for overtime work. If I'd only worked harder, or negotiated better ("If you don't want the job with these conditions, someone else will take it and you can stay unemployed") I'm sure I could have been in exactly the same position.

    the days I didnt work I was at multiple temp agencies

    Lucky you. When I go to temp agencies, they look at my skill set (Computer Science degree, 10 years in IT support and networking, 6 years in media production) and tell me that there's just no work out there, and if I come back in a couple of weeks they might have something but I should probably look at getting my forklift licence and start at the bottom in retail or warehousing.

    and admittedly I sat on my ass for a couple weeks floating on savings after the initial fact.

    So what? Are you attempting to point out that you were "smart" enough to save some money? All you've done is point out that you were sufficiently well paid to save money, which is a completely different thing entirely - and something that minimum wage employees don't get.

    So don't boo hoo cause you grabbed the first trinket on the shelf and are now stuck with it

    Yeah! How dare people allow themselves to be forced to accept the first job offer that comes along as unemployment support requires in so many places? They should just harden up and work harder, like you did, and that way they'll get the Just World desserts that they so richly deserve.

    You should go find someone who's desperately unemployed, and find out how willing they really are to work. You'll be surprised - more willing than you are, willing to work harder than you do, and by the sound of things, a damned sight less entitled than you are.

    You "Just World" cunts make me sick.

  • by jemmyw ( 624065 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @11:15PM (#47312149)

    This is rather anecdotal. I refuse to believe that I'm in a 5% percentage of people more effective working from home than in the office. The office is full of distractions, noise, people to waste time with, toys like pool tables and so forth. I go in every so often because some of those distractions are important.

    But home is nice and quiet. Can move between desk, sofa, bed, outside with laptop. I suspect that those who find distractions working at home will find distractions working in the office.

    I've noticed that the best workers in my company are the ones who have gone remote. I'm not saying that they are best because they're remote. But they're probably the ones who don't feel they need to be seen in the office to prove their worth.

  • by CaroKann ( 795685 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @11:38PM (#47312243)
    Aside from the lack of sleep and general burnout, working overtime also tends to skew expectations with management. Upper management is not going to be aware of exactly the amount of effort required complete a project. They are only going to see the results, the number of employees, and the amount of resources it took to achieve those results. So, if everybody gives it 110%, with lots of overtime and everything, that has the effect of raising the expectations of management. This leads management to believe employees can accomplish this great feat as a matter of course, when in fact, that type of effort can't be repeated. It all ends up with management making unrealistic demands while believing it is entirely reasonable.
  • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @11:48PM (#47312275)

    Where I'm from unions aren't at the company level, they're at the industry level. People don't voluntarily joins the unions, the unions opt everyone in and claim to work on their behalf and attempt to take over. They threaten employees who don't join in their stop-work actions and threaten employers who would let them come to work.

    Unions don't protect employees, employment law protects employees.

  • by stenvar ( 2789879 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @12:40AM (#47312517)

    10 years experience in networking? Minimum wage and no breaks, or this guy over here - who was 3 years experience - will take the job. See how that works?

    Yes, that is the way it's supposed to work. If one car repair shop charges you $200/h and another $100/h, and you know they both get the job done, which one are you going to take your car to? Are you willing to pay extra if the $200/h shop's mechanic has a Ph.D. in English literature?

    I don't see what you think is wrong with businesses choosing cheap labor and paying only for qualifications they actually need: you do the same thing in your daily life.

  • Lack of sleep? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Evtim ( 1022085 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @01:51AM (#47312767)

    One of the most dangerous conditions known to medicine - prolonged lack of proper sleep increases the risks of developing depression and psychosis apart from the other detrimental effects [which are many].

    Sleep deprivation is a method of torture that leads eventually to insanity.

    But don't worry, fellow Americans - your insanity is spreading fast around the world. Our brave leaders, here in Europe, work around the clock [with apparent lack of sleep - see symptoms above] to implement every detrimental [to humans and society] system and method disguised as "increased efficiency" and "cutting costs".

    And here too, the new generation is brainwashed to accept all this as normal. "Work harder and we will make it" - yhea, right. Work harder under artificial, manipulative and downright abusive financial system which can delete your life [together with your hard work] in a second? Work harder when the rules of the game are not what they are professed to be? Work harder so that 0.1% of the wealth you actually produced trickles down to your ever shrinking middle class budget? Work harder and we will increase your children tuition fees by 100%. Work harder and will keep on increasing the costs of living [energy, housing, food, water, education, health care] with a rate that outpaces the increase in your income by factor of 2 or more?

    I don't mind working and I do like to do many things. I love to feel appreciated and I love the thought that I am contributing in my own way to my life and the whole of humanity. But I do not accept to be a hamster in wheel who has to run ever faster [shortening my life in the process] in order to stand still [or go backwards as it happens in the last decade].

    People, we have to stop this insanity and the first step is to realize that we are manipulated into "camps" so that we keep on fighting each other. Reading the discussions about such topics I notice that at least half of the population has bought into the scam and will defend the system with their lives. I do not see any way how this can be changed. I have spent years trying to convince a handful of people to look a bit further than the next meal without substantial success. And I am bloody good when it comes to talking and convincing people.

    Any ideas?

  • by ruir ( 2709173 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @02:38AM (#47312907)
    Exactly. Most [incompetent] people are betting that the competitiveness of a country is based on having low salaries, call it modern slavery, to attract foreign investors. Or put it bluntly, the war in the middle class is raging on. Coincidentally or not, I have seen this week the first news China is starting to outsource USA employees...
  • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @03:33AM (#47313099) Journal

    A business simply offers you a job and a salary. If you don't like the offer, pass on it. No threats, no obligation, no coercion involved.

    Yep. It's not like you have to eat, make rent, pay medical bills or any of that.

  • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @06:26AM (#47313537)

    The people I really can't understand are the ones who do overtime for free - these people are robbing unemployed people of work and aren't even getting paid for it.

    "Real nice job you have here. Be a shame if anything happens to it. You don't mind doing this little thing after work, right? Be a team player, don't bother telling accounting."

    Strong unions could put a stop to that, but everyone is too busy ensuring Joe Slacker gets no unearned benefit to ensure they get their earned ones. It's classic divide and conquer, helped along with everyone thinking they're not only above average but such special snowlakes they can write their own ticket as soon as someone notices their talents - any day now. Of course the resulting economic collapse is taking the employers with them as well, but it's one thing to release the beast and another to put it back into the cage.

    American economy is a self-imposed Hell where the only real goal anyone has is to escape from the looming specter of poverty. That's why get-rich-quick schemes never fail to find victims there. And that's also why it works worse and worse over time, as increasingly desperate people find short-term gambits more and more attractive as long-term plans yield less and less realistic chances of improving your situation or even maintaining it.

  • by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @08:47AM (#47314095) Homepage

    It's not amusing; It's sad. What we call socialism (in the US) is nothing more than totalitarianism and indentured servitude to the government (debt never gets paid off and forever dependent on one political party) under the guise of socialism. That's why you guys in Europe are perplexed about this. Our "socialism" not like the socialism in Europe. I'm not in favor of either, but ours is fucked up in orders of magnitude regardless.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger