The term 9 to 5 has taken on a whole new meaning in recent years and is seldom accurate in describing the number of hours that people are actually working. In fact, the average American workweek is now closer to around 47 hours – nearly a full day of extra work. And for many positions, this number can be significantly higher, and it’s not uncommon for many employees to clock as many as 60 to 65 hours on average per week.
A sharp increase in the number of working hours begs the question: What impact is this having on the family life? And furthermore, how does this phenomenon differ between genders?
A Lack of Work-Family Balance
When you consider the sheer amount of time that people are spending at work combined with performing work related tasks even while they’re on their personal time, it makes sense that the lack of balance can create problems for many families. One of the biggest reasons for the 24/7 work culture is because technology has blurred the lines between work and a personal life more than ever. It’s all too normal to take a call late at night or work on a project on a Sunday.
This is especially common in professional careers such as law and finance – yes, that’s you, our community of attorneys and advisors. As a result of being pulled so strongly into work matters, a phenomenon has developed where family life falls by the wayside. This means parents miss important events in their children’s’ lives and cause somewhat of a breakdown in family relationships. It’s also a recipe for fatigue, exhaustion and ultimately burnout.
Gender Inequality – Another Unfortunate Side Effect
Research has found that men and women have responded differently to the 24/7 work culture. Men tend to simply work the extended hours with some happily complying and others “suffering in silence.” Women, on the other hand, often opt for flexible work programs where they work part-time hours or switch to less demanding, lower paid positions so they can spend more time with their families.
The problem with women working more flexible or less demanding hours is that it’s often a hindrance to women’s careers, and there’s not much room for progress. Women who might otherwise have thriving careers in a non 24/7 work culture may now see their careers projections significantly halted. Consequently, it’s easy to make the case that this phenomenon has led to a promulgation of gender inequality in the workplace.
Many companies have opted for a quick fix such as flexible hours and the option for telecommuting rather than addressing the overarching issue of overwork. Because of this Band-Aid on a much larger issue, the phenomenon of gender gap is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. However, as more people have realized that being on call at all hours isn’t truly necessary, steps are being taken so professionals can work in shifts to maintain a better work-life/family balance. And as Americans become increasingly burned out by the 24/7 work culture, it’s reasonable to expect that other alternatives will continue to arise.
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