80-Hour Work Week: Impacts on Health and Well-Being

80 hour work week by Shiftbase

This article aims to shed light on the modern 80-hour work week phenomenon, offering insights into its implications for physical and mental health, work-life balance, and overall well-being.

What is an 80-hour work week?

An 80-hour work week refers to a schedule where an individual commits to working for 80 hours over a seven-day period. This practice is becoming increasingly common in sectors known for their demanding workloads, such as technology, finance, and healthcare. The shift towards such long hours can be attributed to various factors, including market competition, personal commitment, and the drive to achieve more in less time.

As businesses strive for higher efficiency and output, the average work week has extended beyond the conventional 40 hours. This shift is not limited to top-tier positions like chief engineers or supervisory board members; it is also observed among small business owners and individuals juggling multiple jobs.

The adoption of the 80-hour work week reflects a significant cultural change in work habits, driven by the desire to achieve ambitious professional goals and, in some cases, the necessity to manage multiple incomes.

Reasons behind the 80-hour work week

The shift towards an 80-hour work week can be attributed to several factors:

1. Economic factors

Market demands and competition often necessitate working longer hours. In industries where the output directly correlates with financial incentives, professionals are inclined to work more hours.

For instance, in sales or entrepreneurial roles, more time invested can lead to a significant amount of revenue generation. This is particularly evident in sectors where the completion of important tasks within a limited period is crucial.

2. Cultural factors

Cultural influences play a significant role. A strong work ethic and societal expectations around success often push individuals to extend their work hours. The prestige associated with being a hard worker or a high achiever, like being labeled the hardest-working CEO or an overachieving chief engineer, drives many to sacrifice leisure time and free time.

In some cultures, working extensive hours is seen as a badge of honor, even if it leads to physical health problems or mental health problems.

3. Technological advancements

The advent of technology, especially time-tracking apps and constant connectivity, has blurred the lines between work and personal life. Professionals are now more accessible outside traditional working hours, leading to an increased expectation of constant availability.

This has extended the average hours a week one works, often encroaching into time previously reserved for relaxation or sleep. The result is a workforce that is increasingly sleep-deprived and struggling to maintain healthy habits or find time for non-work-related activities like exercise or leisure.

Who works 80+ hours a week?

  • CEOs and high-level executives: Often involved in multiple aspects of their companies, leading to extended work hours.

  • Entrepreneurs and start-up founders: Tasked with getting their businesses off the ground, they frequently work long hours.

  • Tech industry professionals: Including chief engineers and developers, especially in high-stakes projects or start-ups.

  • Medical professionals: Such as surgeons and doctors, particularly in times of high demand.

  • Legal professionals: Lawyers and attorneys often work long hours during trials or complex cases.

  • Financial sector professionals: Including investment bankers and financial analysts during peak business periods.

  • Creative professionals: Artists, writers, and designers, especially when working on significant projects or deadlines.

  • Individuals with multiple jobs: People working two or more jobs to meet financial needs or career goals.

  • Academics and researchers: Especially during periods of research, publication deadlines, or grant applications.

Example of daily routine for an 80-hour work week

female call center operator working the night shift

Morning routine: Starting early for maximum productivity

The day for someone embracing an 80-hour work week typically begins before the sun peeks over the horizon. Early mornings are crucial for maximizing productivity, and for a morning person, this is when they are most alert and efficient.

The use of time tracking apps is a common practice, assisting in organizing and prioritizing tasks right from the onset of the day. Breakfast, though often brief, is an essential meal, carefully chosen to be nutritious to fuel the demanding day ahead.

Work hours: Balancing primary and secondary roles

The majority of the day is consumed by work, focusing primarily on the individual's main job responsibilities which could range from intensive office work to managing significant projects. For many, this also involves handling secondary roles, such as additional duties of a supervisory board member or overseeing a personal business.

This dual focus demands not only more effort but also a strong sense of personal commitment. To maintain both mental and physical health amidst these long hours, it's vital to incorporate short breaks throughout the day, allowing for brief moments of rest and recuperation.

Meal times: Quick and nutritious

Mealtimes in an 80-hour work week are often succinct yet strategic. Lunch and dinner are planned to be quick, focusing on nutritional value to sustain energy levels for extended hours. Healthy snacks are integrated into the day to combat potential health problems and to provide steady energy.

This careful attention to diet is a key element in managing the rigors of long work hours, ensuring that physical health is not compromised.

Evening routine: Dedicating time to personal life

After the long stretch of work, the evening is when individuals try to balance their professional and personal lives. Despite the limited time available, engaging in personal and non-work-related activities is crucial for a better work-life balance.

The evening routine often includes leisure activities, such as pursuing hobbies, spending quality time with family and friends, or simply unwinding with relaxing activities like enjoying soothing music. This time is essential to disconnect from work and rejuvenate.

Night routine: Prioritizing rest and health

The night routine is pivotal in an 80-hour work week, with a significant focus on ensuring adequate rest. Managing the sleep schedule is critical to maintaining both physical and mental health in the face of such long working hours.

Efforts are made to go to bed at a reasonable time to feel well-rested for the following day. Preparing for the next day is often part of the night routine, aiming to streamline the morning process and save time.

This detailed daily routine reflects the demanding life of those committed to an 80-hour work week, akin to the schedules of the most dedicated professionals. It underscores the discipline and strategic planning required to balance such a workload with personal health and life.

Physical and mental health impacts

The physical and mental health impacts of an 80-hour work week are significant and have been extensively studied. Here are the key findings:

  • Sleep deprivation: Long work hours often cut into sleep time, leading to chronic sleep deprivation. This not only affects cognitive functions like memory and decision-making but also increases the risk of physical health issues like cardiovascular disease and weakened immune response.

  • Chronic stress: The constant pressure and workload associated with an 80-hour work week can lead to chronic stress. This condition is linked to a variety of health problems, including hypertension, digestive disorders, and a higher risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart conditions.

  • Burnout: Burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress and overwork. It can lead to a decrease in productivity, feelings of cynicism, detachment from the job, and a sense of ineffectiveness.

  • Long-term health risks: Prolonged overworking can lead to serious long-term health risks. These include increased risks of stroke, heart disease, mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, and even early mortality.

  • Healthcare costs: The health implications of overworking also translate into increased healthcare costs. This is not only a burden for the individuals affected but can also have wider economic implications due to increased healthcare spending and lost productivity.

Effects on productivity and work quality

The impact of an 80-hour work week on productivity and work quality is a subject of considerable debate and research. While the initial assumption might be that more hours lead to more output, the reality, as revealed by various studies, suggests a more complex picture.

Diminishing returns and quality of output

Regarding the diminishing returns and quality of output, it's been consistently observed that productivity does not scale linearly with the number of hours worked. After a certain threshold, typically around 40-50 hours per week, productivity begins to decline. This decline is attributed to factors such as fatigue, reduced concentration, and increased error rates.

The quality of work often suffers as a result, with the potential for more mistakes and lower overall standards of performance. This trend is particularly pronounced in tasks requiring creativity or critical thinking, where mental acuity is paramount.

Expert opinions on optimal work hours for peak performance

Expert opinions on the optimal work hours for peak performance tend to align with these findings. Many researchers and productivity specialists advocate for a workweek considerably shorter than 80 hours. The consensus suggests that the most productive work schedule ranges between 35 and 50 hours per week.

This recommendation is based not only on maximizing output during work hours but also on the importance of rest and recuperation. Rest periods are crucial for maintaining long-term productivity and mental health, allowing for a reset of cognitive functions and prevention of burnout.

Comparison of output quality between standard and extended work weeks.

When comparing the output quality between standard and extended work weeks, the evidence points towards a more efficient and sustainable output in standard work weeks. Companies that encourage a balanced approach to work hours often report better long-term results. These include:

On the other hand, extended work weeks can lead to a gradual decline in the quality and creativity of work, counteracting the intended benefits of working additional hours.

Tips to work in an 80 hour work week schedule

working-at-night

Managing an 80-hour work week requires careful planning and strategic approaches. Here are three essential tips with detailed overviews and succinct implementation points:

1. Efficient time management:

Efficient time management is crucial when working an 80-hour week. It involves more than just keeping a schedule; it's about maximizing productivity without overextending yourself. This means prioritizing tasks based on importance and urgency, and being smart about how you allocate your hours.

Avoiding burnout is key, as it can lead to decreased productivity and negative health consequences. Using tools and techniques to manage time can make a significant difference in handling such a demanding workload.

Implementation:

  • Use a time tracking app: To keep track of how you spend your time and identify areas for improvement.

  • Set priorities: Focus on the most critical tasks each day.

  • Schedule communications: Designate specific times for checking and responding to emails and calls.

  • Plan short breaks: Incorporate brief pauses to rejuvenate and maintain focus.

2. Prioritize health and well-being:

When working extended hours, it's easy to let health and well-being slide, but this is counterproductive in the long run. Neglecting physical and mental health can lead to chronic fatigue, reduced cognitive function, and a host of other health issues.

It's important to make conscious efforts to eat well, stay active, and get enough rest. This not only helps in staying healthy but also ensures that you are at your best when working, thereby enhancing productivity and work quality.

Implementation:

  • Nutritious meals: Ensure all your meals are balanced and healthy.

  • Regular exercise: Include some form of physical activity in your daily routine.

  • Consistent sleep routine: Establish a regular sleep pattern to help you fall asleep faster and get quality rest.

  • Mental health breaks: Take time out for relaxation and mental health care.

3. Building a supportive network:

Having a supportive network is invaluable, especially when working long hours. This network can include professional contacts who understand your challenges, family and friends for emotional support, and mentors for guidance.

These relationships provide a safety net, offering advice, sharing burdens, and understanding your situation. A strong support network can also help you stay grounded and maintain perspective, reminding you of life outside of work.

Implementation:

  • Professional networking: Keep in regular contact with colleagues and industry peers.

  • Family and friends: Ensure to maintain a healthy social life outside of work.

  • Seek mentors: Look for guidance from those who have experience in managing similar schedules.

  • Networking events: Attend events to create and strengthen professional relationships.

4. Use your leisure time wisely:

When working an 80-hour week, leisure time becomes a precious commodity. It's essential to use this time wisely to recharge effectively. This doesn't necessarily mean packing your free time with activities; sometimes, the best use of leisure time is simply relaxing or doing something that brings you joy and relaxation.

Whether it's pursuing a hobby, spending quality time with loved ones, or just enjoying a moment of solitude, these activities can significantly contribute to your overall well-being and help you return to work rejuvenated.

Implementation:

  • Plan leisure activities: Schedule activities that you enjoy and help you relax.

  • Quality over quantity: Focus on the quality of your leisure time rather than trying to fit in a multitude of activities.

  • Disconnect from work: Use your free time to take a complete break from work-related thoughts and activities.

  • Nurture relationships: Spend time with family and friends to maintain strong personal connections.

5. Reduce the distractions:

In an 80-hour work week, every minute counts. Reducing distractions is therefore critical in ensuring that the time spent working is as productive as possible. Distractions can come in many forms, from digital notifications to a cluttered workspace.

Identifying and minimizing these distractions can help maintain focus and increase efficiency. This not only helps in getting more work done in less time but also contributes to better work quality.

Implementation:

  • Limit digital interruptions: Turn off non-essential notifications on your devices during work hours.

  • Organize your workspace: Keep your work area tidy to reduce visual clutter and enhance focus.

  • Set boundaries: Inform colleagues and family members of your work hours to minimize interruptions.

  • Focused work sessions: Use techniques like the Pomodoro Technique to work in focused bursts, followed by short breaks.

Implementing these strategies can significantly improve the management of an 80-hour work week.

Alternative models and work-life balance strategies

Employer using a Shiftbase management tool to create employee shift schedules

Balancing a demanding work schedule while maintaining personal well-being can be challenging. Here are three alternative models and strategies that can help achieve a better work-life balance:

Flextime schedules:

This model allows employees to have flexible start and end times while maintaining a certain number of work hours per day or week. It accommodates personal needs and preferences, such as attending to family responsibilities or avoiding peak commute times.

Flextime can lead to increased employee satisfaction and productivity as it provides a sense of control over work schedules.

Remote or hybrid work arrangements:

Remote work, either full-time or as part of a hybrid model (combining office and remote work), offers flexibility in work location. It reduces commute time, which can be repurposed for personal activities or rest.

These flexible work arrangements can also allow for a more comfortable and personalized work environment, which can boost productivity and job satisfaction.

Four-day work week:

This approach involves working four longer days to allow for a three-day weekend. It can lead to increased productivity during work hours as employees are motivated by the prospect of extended time off.

A longer weekend provides more time for personal activities, relaxation, and family time, contributing to better overall well-being.

Implementing these alternative models can provide a more balanced approach to work and life, enhancing both employee well-being and productivity.

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Conclusion

Managing an 80-hour work week is a formidable challenge, but it's not insurmountable. By adopting efficient time management strategies, prioritizing health and well-being, leveraging a supportive network, wisely using leisure time, and minimizing distractions, individuals can navigate these extensive work hours more effectively.

Additionally, exploring alternative work models like flextime schedules, remote or hybrid work arrangements, and the four-day work week can significantly aid in achieving a healthier work-life balance.

Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that productivity and professional commitments are balanced with personal health and happiness, leading to a more sustainable and fulfilling work life.

Mitigate the risks of an 80-hour work week with Shiftbase

In the context of the demanding 80-hour work week, effective workforce management becomes more critical than ever. Shiftbase, with its robust employee scheduling, time tracking, and absence management features, offers a solution. By utilizing these tools, businesses can better manage employee hours, ensuring a healthier work-life balance and reducing the risk of burnout. The ability to track and manage work hours with precision not only aids in maintaining employee well-being but also in enhancing overall productivity and job satisfaction.

Don't let the challenges of an 80-hour work week overwhelm your business. Experience how Shiftbase can streamline your workforce management. Try it free for 14 days and take a step towards a more balanced and efficient work environment.

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Rinaily Bonifacio

Written by:

Rinaily Bonifacio

Rinaily is a renowned expert in the field of human resources with years of industry experience. With a passion for writing high-quality HR content, Rinaily brings a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities of the modern workplace. As an experienced HR professional and content writer, She has contributed to leading publications in the field of HR.

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