The 8-hour workday is not much of a norm anymore. Not only has technology changed the way people work – carrying work home with them because of smart phones and email accounts – but it has also impacted the nature of work. An ever increasing number of people operate from home, often according to their own scheduling preferences. What’s more, working overtime and having a sideline job is now quite common. Among those who work more than 40 hours per week, many have actually decided to do so and one of the motivating factors, which drive people to work more undoubtedly, is money.
More Work Often Rhymes With More Money
The figures reported in a study by Dembe, Erickson, Delbos and Banks show that in the United States, between 19% and 33% of overtime work is compulsory. In other words, workers sometimes do not have a choice: they must work longer hours, as it is intrinsic to their job. Still, if we reverse the aforementioned figures, we could also say that between 67% and 81% of overtime work is actually… deliberately chosen by the employee. Many things could account for that: people might want to work more just because they love their jobs or they might want to do some extra hours with the intention of eventually being assigned to a higher position, for instance.
But another potential explanation is money. Working overtime can indeed make a significant difference on any American’s pay check since the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act state that an employer has to pay his or her employees a minimum of 1.5 times their regular rate of pay when they are doing overtime (although certain fields of activity are not included in this Act). Yet, overtime is not the only source of extra work. Part-time, second jobs also are quite common among the American labor force.
At the end of the 1990s, more than 8 million American workers were holding two jobs or more. Among these people, almost 31% said they had more than one job in order to pay for their regular expenses while just over 10% said they did so to pay off debts. Close to 9% said they wanted to save for the future and plan some retirement savings while almost 8% said they sought to be able to buy something special with their extra earnings. Others (about 15%) simply enjoyed having more than one job at a time and more than 16% declared having other reasons to do so. Yet, what really stands out from these statistics is that money is at play: whether it is to clear off debt, pay for common expenses or save for one’s old days, working more yields some financial benefits.
The Downsides of Working More
If some people seem to absolutely need that extra money to survive and be financially comfortable, others yearn for it in order to build personal projects. This is actually honorable striving in order to achieve your personal goals – whether it is to go on a trip abroad, buy yourself a new car or make a down payment on a condo – undoubtedly is the best way to give some meaning to your daily efforts. The risk, however, is to eventually lose sight of your goals and to work extra hours just for the sake of… working extra hours.
Of course, there is nothing wrong in having fun at work and enjoying one’s job. But working 50 or 60 hours per week without having a precise goal in mind or without having enough free time to benefit from that extra money you earn can cause more harm than good to some people. Academic research has actually confirmed that working too much can be detrimental to one’s health. The aforementioned study by Dembe, Erickson, Delbos and Banks published in 2005 in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, for instance, shows that the risk of being injured at work increases as a worker performs extra hours.
In fact, jobs with overtime schedules are associated with a 61% higher injury hazard rate when compared with jobs that do not include extra work hours. Also, working 12 hours per day is apparently associated with a 37% higher injury hazard rate. Another study by Virtanen and colleagues shows that working long hours is associated with a 40% excess risk of coronary heart disease. Obviously, the potential negative consequences of doing extra work are not limited to psychological stress and exhaustion: they also extend to physical health.
Considering all of this, finding a balance between extra work and leisure time is important. Working more hours in order to earn more money and eventually being able to achieve a personal goal is great. But working 60 hours per week without a strong, personal motivation can become alienating. In effect, what is the point of working more if you ultimately do not take some time to enjoy that extra money you have earned? Will spending that money on a more expensive car or saving it all for you old days bring you more happiness? Of course, the answer depends on your own priorities and needs. But setting yourself short-term goals as well can give some meaning to a temporary hectic lifestyle that otherwise could lead to exhaustion. And remember that having more free time and spending it with the ones you love can be a goal in itself too…
Alexandre Duval, the author of this post, is a freelance blogger for Standard Life who writes about money, lifestyle and travel, among other things. He is currently completing a master’s degree.