Is It Time to Bring Back the 40-Hour Week?

Working hard or hardly working once you pass the 40 mark? The recent controversy surrounding Pasco Property Appraiser Mike Wells gave me pause. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Pasco County Property Appraiser Mike Wells was unapologetic when he said recently that you will never find his vehicle parked outside his office 40 hours a week.

“Not gonna happen,” he , when asked to respond to the controversy a Channel 10 story created when a reporter showed up to his home one Monday afternoon and found him in his boxer shorts after .

Wells said technology allows him to be accessible to the public at any time, and that he spends his working time out in the field and from home. His office has instructions to forward all calls to his cellphone, even when he’s on vacation. His cell number is made available to all taxpayers, and the only time he doesn’t have it on him is when he’s sleeping; he works year-round, at all hours, so spending 40 hours a week in a government building is not necessary, .

But the . Some agreed that technology has made it possible to work regardless of location; others felt that Wells is responsible for spending a certain amount of time in the office.

And that got me thinking. I am a remote worker. I do not report to an office. Ever. I wake up at 6 a.m. and start answering emails before I’ve brushed my teeth. Sometimes, I’m still answering emails at midnight. I fold laundry while listening in on conference calls. I may be overseeing my children’s homework while scheduling interviews or putting the final touches on a feature, or returning phone calls and answering emails while pushing a grocery cart.

Sometimes it feels like I am always working. Even on my days off, I’m thinking about what I need to do to for work. Because I love it, and because it’s the nature of my position.

It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle.

And there are some days, after weeks on end of living for work, that I fantasize about a job where I can just show up for eight hours at the office, then clock out and be done—physically, mentally and emotionally.

But that never wins out, because I love what I do. I care deeply about the people I work with, and the people who read our stories every day.

Just to be clear, I’m not arguing for or against Wells. His story just piqued my interest because I could relate. I can’t speak to his effectiveness or his passion for his job. But I can speak to being an out-of-the-box employee.  For me, 40 hours in an office is “never gonna happen” either.

The workforce has changed. For better or worse, things are different. We don’t have to be in an office for an allotted amount of time to do our jobs. Technology makes it possible to work round-the-clock, from anywhere. But is it hurting our productivity in the long run?

A friend of mine recently posted this Salon.com article on Facebook that calls for the return of the 40-hour work-week. “…Every hour you work over 40 hours a week is making you less effective and productive over both the short and the long haul,” author Sara Robinson writes.

According to Robinson, for most of the 20th century, the 40-hour work-week was the norm, because anything more than that was considered “stupid, wasteful, dangerous and expensive … while it was the unions that pushed it, business leaders ultimately went along with it because their own data convinced them this was a solid, hard-nosed business decision.”

So is Wells’s reputed accessibility actually eroding his productivity in the long run, if in fact he is available to the public at all times? How about you—are you available to work 24/7? And does it wear on you? Would we all be better off working 40 hours and leaving it all behind, refusing to take calls, answer emails or work on projects after hours?

I didn’t have a cellphone or an email address 15 years ago. If I wasn’t at home, you couldn’t reach me. If I wasn’t at work, you couldn’t reach me there either. I was untethered when I wasn’t on the clock. Granted at that time, I was on the clock as a Chuck E. Cheese hostess, but still. Work was work, and play was play, and family time was family time.

Technology has freed us from the restraints of the traditional office, but blurred the line between work and home life. We may need to redraw them.

Vacations should be vacations, shouldn’t they?

Rob Marlowe September 02, 2012 at 11:16 AM
I resemble this also. Slept in to 7am today (Sunday) and I've already responded to two customer emails before my coffee had cooled down enough to take a first sip. Being connected 24/7 definitely has its drawbacks. In my case, hearing the rest of the house stir will be my cue to back away from the computer.
Larry Andersen September 02, 2012 at 04:04 PM
I judge local elected officials by how well their office operates and how effective it is. I have used Mr Wells driver licence, car registration office before he changed it and many times after. As a retired County employee (Midwest) I have been amazed how efficient this office operatives. I am a registered Republican and conservative in nature. I will vote for Wells as long as he runs. The hours a head of department spends in their office does not relate to the running of the operation of the department. You judge an elected official by the fruit of their efforts not by hours spent in their office.
sueb September 02, 2012 at 05:04 PM
This complaint is similar to what teachers endure. We are on a schedule when we HAVE to be there obviously. But complainers that say teachers get the summers off and take lavish vacations in exotic places. I wish that was true. I spend my 37.5 hours at "the office", then go home and use my internet to add grades, do research, and get things ready for projects for students to do later. This is anything but a "37.5 hours at a place and go home to forget about it" job. Many teachers spend home time calling parents or getting calls from parents to answer questions over making dinner or spending time with their own children. Summer time is a time to prepare for next year and do all the house cleaning/odd jobs that gets put off during the school year. A vacation is allowable as long as the school work is done. With the lack of COL increases, exotic is something akin to never having been to a local flea market, boutique to browse and wishful think, or just plain read a book long overdue to get read. I didn't bat an eyelash when Mr. Wells said he has no need to be physically at the work place because he is taking advantage of the technology now available that makes physical attendance not needed. He's available for contact, and he does have the right to be at home to nurse what sounds like a migraine! People do get sick. Vacations are supposed to a time away from work, but those that do enjoy their jobs or have a strong work ethic shouldn't be BLAMED for it.
Marianne Castiglia September 02, 2012 at 07:06 PM
I'm guessing the people who don't understand why Mike Wells does not need to be in his office to be working does not have a clue about today's world. He is not a factory worker or a sales clerk where you have to be physically at a location to do your job. I'm almost 60 years old and I know things have changed. Things do. Get over it.
sueb September 02, 2012 at 10:25 PM
I may be closer to 60 than you M. Think our generation is inflexible yet? lol


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