Let’s Bring Back the 40-hour Work Week [Infographic]

The 40-hour work week has been replaced with a 24/7 working culture in the U.S. But, for every extra hour of work, there is a direct cost to employees and their employers.

What many fail to realize is the 40-hour work week was a well-thought out business decision stapled in America’s history for over three generations. Years of research proves working longer hours does not correlate with increased productivity in the long-run.

The trade-offs made by employees to commit to more hours at work come at the expense of their health, happiness, and ultimately the productivity levels of the company.

According to a recent infographic, three of every four American employees put in more than 40 hours of work each week. The research conducted by OnlineMBA was aimed at revealing some of these lesser-known statistics and consequences of working overtime:

We Are Working More, But Earning Less

(numbers adjusted for inflation)

  • Average income in 1970 was $59,000
  • Average work week in 1970 was 35 hours
  • Average income in 2012 is $51,000
  • Average work week in 2012 is 46 hours

Workplace Stress Is Widespread… and Costly

  • Three in four Americans feel stressed at work
  • Workplace stress costs U.S. employers approximately $200 billion a year in lost productivity

There Is Nothing to Gain From Overworking Employees

  • After eight hours of work, productivity decreases by half
  • 60 hours of work a week will only yield an extra quarter of output


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at ComeRecommended!


About the Author: Brittany Troyer graduated from the Pennsylvania State University with a B.A. in public relations and an A.A. in business in May 2012. Prior to joining the team, Brittany has gained experience in communications through multiple internships and freelance experience, both in the area as well as Barcelona, Spain. Follow Brittany on Twitter!



Photo credit:  Memebase.com

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  • These are amazing statistics, though not at all surprising. I think quite simply put – we’re working more, making less, and depleting our health as a nation in the process. It’s interesting when you look at the culture we’ve created. I don’t think it’s enough to just decide on an individual level, “Interesting stats – I’m going to work less.” We’ve created this collective thinking that the less we work, the less value/aptitude/dedication/earning potential we’re exhibiting. Yikes.

    • I think you hit it on the head with “culture we’ve created”. I wonder if it’s industry-specific or geographic?

      For example, I live in Silicon Valley… which is Spanish for “it’s normal to leave work at 8pm”. When I left Cisco after 3 years (an extremely fast-paced, high-stress culture) I remember the end of my very first day at AOL (pretty much the anti-Cisco).

      At about 4:30 I realized I had nothing else to do… given that it was my first day and all… so I read some internal memos until 5 and then figured I’d head out. I remember walking out of the building and I literally turned around expecting to see people watching me leave thinking to themselves “It’s 5 o’clock! Where the hell does the new guy think he’s going so early?!!” (No one was really watching me and it turned out that I’d found a company that actually believed in quasi-normal work hours.)

      In contrast to typical type-A Silicon Valley, at my first start-up my boss was on a business trip to Michigan. He called me one day bewildered. He said “Dude! Everyone here leaves work at 5 o’clock! I called a lady just now to see if she wanted to meet me and she said ‘Well you better hurry! It’s 4:45! Almost time to go!’ And she is a VP!” My Silicon Valley boss couldn’t believe the work day ended somewhere at 5.

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