When putting together a job listing, everyone wants to say that their full-time job takes 40 hours a week. In practice, that is sadly not the case. Most jobs take many more than that – yet there are countless studies out there that point to burnout if you work more than 40 hours a week for enough time. And we have a century of labor activism, people trying to work fewer hours. Mostly, we’ve failed.

So, if you say your position will take 80 hours a week, that may deter applicants. And you want to get awesome, qualified people in the door, then give them an offer, and then burn them out. As a result, you just say the position is “full time,” and defer questions of work-life balance in the interview.

What’s the consequence of all this? The jobs that really do take 40 hours a week trumpet it as an employee benefit. And everybody else lies.

I work 40 hours a week. Back when I had a full-time job, one of my bosses pushed back on this – not because there was a pressing deadline, but because everyone else was working longer. I quit and had a new job within two weeks.

Getting a new job so quickly is great, but not all people are so lucky, especially those who do hourly-wage or blue-collar jobs. While countries like France have a legally mandated cap on hours, the Fair Labor Standards Act doesn’t impose a limit in the United States. I desperately wish this were reformed in my lifetime and people were able to work 40 hours to get a living wage, but given how many people submit to 80-hour work weeks in this country, I’m not holding out hope.

You know how job listings post the expected salary? What if they were also required to list the hourly commitment? Something like this: “This job will pay $80,000 a year, and take 60 hours a week.”

As a worker, you would understand the expectations more easily. And maybe as an employer, you’d be more likely to treat your workers well. I’d kill for that sort of honesty in a job listing, even though it seems vanishingly unlikely to ever happen.

The point, though: discretionary time is a form of compensation, and I’d argue it’s more important than money. I left my job on time every day so I could hang out with my friends and family; so I could pursue my own projects; so I could do what I wanted with my life.

I love practicing design, of course – but I have no regrets about turning away from it after eight hours. I get only one life. I’m glad I haven’t spent all of it in the office.

Thanks for reading,
Nick Disabato
nickd@nickd.org


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