Of those who worked more than 51 hours per week, men ages 18 to 49 outnumbered women in the same age group by a factor of more than three, and minority men seem to work 51 hours or more at a higher rate than their white counterparts.
Around 62 percent of Americans said that the number of hours they work is the right fit while 28 percent said that ideally, they’d scale back. Part-time workers were somewhat more content with their work hours, with 70 percent of respondents saying that they worked the right amount and 26 percent saying they wish they could put in more hours on the job. Of full-time employees about 60 percent said that their hours were spot-on, while more than one-third said that they would like to work less.
What exactly do Americans consider the correct amount of hours? More than three-in-four respondents who said they work between 31 and 40 hours thought they worked about the right amount. They are joined by 70 percent of those who work a nine-to-five schedule.
When it came to balancing work and home life, the main complaint seems to be less about overall hours and more about working an unpredictable schedule. Robert McCuen, whose job involves being available for troubleshooting for manufacturers, says that the inability to predict his schedule is what makes his work-life balance so tough. “Going in I have no idea how long the day is going to be,” McCuen says.
Americans feel varying levels of obligation about making themselves available outside of work. About 41 percent of those who are currently employed say that their job frequently requires them to be in contact outside of the office. And of those who do check in after working hours, about 56 percent said that they checked in even while on vacation.
Touching base while on vacation isn’t that big of an issue for 41-year-old River Medina, a transportation manager in Texas, but that’s because she can’t remember the last time she took one. When I ask her about the days that she takes off from work, she has to think for a while and then realizes that she hasn’t really taken much time off at all. “The only times I’ve taken off were funerals. I work from home on sick days,” Medina says.
And not using paid vacation, and sometimes even sick days, is a fairly common practice. Among all full-time employees only about 36 percent said that they used all, or almost all, of their paid sick or vacation days. Among part-time workers the frequency was less than half that rate.
Medina wouldn’t necessarily consider herself a willful workaholic. “The job keeps me so busy during the day that I use my off time to catch up on stuff. It’s exhausting.” she says. “Most of the time it’s like, I know we’re still working on this or that, I never feel like I’m safe to take time off.”
Both Medina and McCuen agree; more flexibility to take time off would be helpful. Medina suggests mandatory vacation to prevent worker burnout. McCuen’s views are more centered on the constant balancing act between family and career that he says gets skewed, since work flexibility tends to come with seniority. At 48, and with his children mostly grown, McCuen says that he has less of a need for family-friendly hours than he once did. “I’ve always thought we had it kind of backwards,” he says. “When people are starting out with a young family they need lots of vacation and free time. When I was younger that’s when I really needed the time.”