Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Overworked elites on ‘death marches’

  • Print

The jobs created during the agonizingly slow recovery from the Great Recession have largely been low-paying, part-time positions. Strikes and other worker movements have often featured demands for more working hours -- quite a contrast to the early days of industrial capitalism, which focused on the eight-hour workday (as opposed to 10) — and the 40-hour work week. The left has rightly focused a lot of attention on this lack of work.

What has gotten less attention is how many people at the top have been doing the opposite. Among elite professions, working absurd hours is not just common but practically universal. What people tend to overlook is that working too much is bad even for elites. Research shows that overworked people are unhappy, less productive and tend to burn out — meaning that forcing one’s employees to consistently work more than 40 hours is a poor business decision.

Related Items

This suggests that today’s economy is terrible in many ways even for much of the elite. Policies such as a return to a strict 40-hour workweek would have substantial benefits across the board. Democrats and the professional class ought to take notice.

James Surowiecki talked about this overworked elite in a blog post Monday: "Thirty years ago, the best-paid workers in the U.S. were much less likely to work long days than low-paid workers were. By 2006, the best paid were twice as likely to work long hours as the poorly paid, and the trend seems to be accelerating. A 2008 Harvard Business School survey of a thousand professionals found that 94 per cent worked 50 hours or more a week, and almost half worked in excess of 65 hours a week. Overwork has become a credential of prosperity."

And blogger Hugh Hancock breaks down the reality of putting in 80-hour work week "death marches."

"Long term, death marches don’t give you more productive time... If you work more time than your comfortable maximum and keep doing it, your productivity will drop and keep dropping. Quite rapidly, you will become less productive than you would be if you worked 40 hours. Working 80 hours a week for a year might feel productive, but you’ll be getting less done than if you worked 30...

"So what’s a death march good for? A death march lets you steal time. You can’t work 80 hours for the next three months and double your productivity. But you can work 80 hours a week for the next three weeks and double what you get done — provided you’re willing to accept that in the three weeks after that, your output will be functionally identical to that of a lightly-reheated blancmange."

But elite workers are ending up 100 per cent blancmange, all the time.

I don’t mean to say that the plight of the "overemployed" is comparable to that of the unemployed but rather that today’s economy stinks even for people raking in substantial sums.

The political upshot is that Democrats shouldn’t fear full-bore economic justice — there are likely to be substantial benefits even for much of the top.

 

Excerpted from washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Weekend springtime weather with Doug Speirs - Apr 19

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Goose sits in high grass near Marion Friday afternoon for cover -See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 18 - May 25, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • The sun peers through the fog to illuminate a tree covered in hoar frost near Headingley, Manitoba Thursday- Standup photo- February 02, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What are you most looking forward to this Easter weekend?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google