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Burning the midnight oil

Forgive me for what will be a short post. Forgive me for any lack of wit. I’m tired.

Why? I was really sick for a week in January and had to take a week off at the beginning of this month to deal with some family stuff. What does that mean, really? Working lots and lots of hours to try and close the gap in my goal numbers. And that means… I’m TIRED.

Due to the lackluster job market, people are doing whatever they need to do to keep their jobs.

“If you’re lucky enough to have a job right now, you’re probably doing everything possible to hold onto it,” Sara Robinson wrote recently on AlterNet in an article titled “Bring Back the 40-hour Work Week.” “If the boss asks you to work 50 hours, you work 55. If she asks for 60, you give up weeknights and Saturdays, and work 65.”

Studies researching the results of the 40-hour work week and overtime productivity repeatedly show industrial workers have eight reliable working hours in them. On average, you get no more widgets out of a 10-hour day than you do out of an eight-hour day. Likewise, the overall output for the work week will be exactly the same at the end of six days as it would be after five days.

So, paying hourly workers to stick around once they’ve put in their weekly 40 is basically nothing more than a stupid and abusive way to burn up profits. Let ‘em go home, rest up and come back on Monday. It’s better for everybody.

This is truly enlightening if you consider the number of hours an attorney at a big law firm puts in per day, per week, and per month. Above the Law reviewed Robinson’s story, concluding “one should work to live, not the other way around.”

However, it seems like the majority of working Americans are “the other way around.” I watch as my friends in law firms toil for 12 hours a day, only to spend their few, free waking moments drinking and venting about how they have no lives.

What do you think? Do you think American working culture will allow a return of the 40-hour work week as the norm?


  1. Do you think it is wise to call your employer “stupid and abusive”?

  2. Maryland Esquire

    I agree with Pushkin. A quick Google reveals where you work.

    You’ve just written an article publicizing how the firm does not provide any sort of a work-life balance, particularly for illness or family issues. A lot of firms actually take into account that you might be out for 2 weeks over the course of a year. From your post, your firm is not one of them.

  3. Actually Hae says where she works right on the bio section of this blogg. I didn’t think that Hae was saying anything negative about her employer but just making a general comment on working hours in society and the legal profession.

  4. Dorothy Hae Eun Min

    Thanks Jen.

    @Pushkin–More specifically, I was merely referring back to the article I cited two paragraphs earlier. The article stated, “So paying hourly workers to stick around once they’ve put in their weekly 40 is basically nothing more than a stupid and abusive way to burn up profits. Let ‘em go home, rest up and come back on Monday. It’s better for everybody.” I forgot the quotation marks. My apologies. The article was discussing the output productivity of hourly workers who clock in overtime (albeit, in a snarky manner). Even if that paragraph was not taken as a direct quotation from the article, it clearly does not refer to my employer or any other law firm for that matter. Nevertheless, I am thrilled that you have such little faith in my good judgment and intelligence.

    @Maryland, Esquire–I never stated that my firm does not work to achieve work-life balance. The first two paragraphs of my post are there to highlight my struggle to catch up on work, which we are all subject to when time is spent away from the office. As you mentioned, most firms (as does mine) do account for folks to be out of the office for some time period or another over the course of the year. They understand that things come up. However, the world moves on without you whether you like it or not. Client matters and communications need to be addressed whether you feel like you don’t have enough time in the work day. Plus, you can’t discount the competitive nature of the law firm environment. In addition, the compassion of a particular law firm for an individual’s life plights still does not take away from the general American working culture of putting in far more than 40 hours a week on a regular basis.

    @Everyone–The deviation from the 40-hour work week, the history of its creation and implementation, and the current culture–the expectation of working past the 40–in most offices across the nation (whether it is a law firm or a manufacturing plant) were the cruxes of my musings. Hopefully, no one else was offended at the possibility of me publicly blasting my employer (who is noted on my bio), for whom I work hard for and greatly appreciate.