If there's one common complaint in the workplace, it's overwork. People often believe that they are working too many hours, or worry that they are working too little. Some even just worry that they might not be working enough to make their career speed forward. Even employers worry about overworking their people.
The fact is that there's a question that regularly comes up among both company owners, HR directors, and employees: how many hours should you work in a week in order to get ahead?
It's hard to really peg how much is too much, and how many hours per week is too little. Here's what different studies are saying about the average workweek.
The average work week consists of a 47 hour week for Americans that work fulltime.
According to this study, the average person will spend around 47 hours, week after week, working at the office. This is true if they are working full time. However, the actual average work week among Americans who are working both fulltime and part-time jobs is only 34.4 hours per week.
So, if you're looking for a good average amount of work, then by all means, stick to a maximum of 47 hours per week. That is approximately eight hours per day, six days a week. However, most of us won't be functioning that well without a break.
Currently, most HR firms say that the best amount of work hours you can have is 40.
The 40-hour work week is a classic, for good reason. According to Lifehacker, this is the maximum amount of hours you should work in a week while still being as productive as can be. Over 150 years of studies have shown that every hour after 40 leads to less productivity and efficiency, over both the long and short term.
As many people also can tell you, working more than 40 hours per week can also reduce the amount of morale in the workplace. Simply put, there's a lot of evidence that suggests that people tend to lose sanity when they are overworked - and overworking tends to happen more often than not.
What's interesting is that studies have also shown that entrepreneurs tend to work almost twice as much as a standard person does.
One study noted that the typical CEO will end up working a whopping 57.8 hours per week. This translates into a typical workday of 10 to 11 hours per day. If CEOs who are actually running major, successful companies are working this long, it's clear that it's possible to be productive for long stretches. If this is possible, how many hours should you work in a week?
But, the question is, at what cost? Moreover, would others choose to work those kinds of hours at the cost of family time, sleep, and personal health? Chances are that they wouldn't - and that's why they are not entrepreneurs.
Many are now arguing that even 40 is a bit too much, with 32 to 35 being a better option.
One study showed that working 35 hours per week is the best in terms of keeping work flow steady without becoming less productive over the long term. The more work you pile up after 35 hours, the more likely it is that workers will feel a "slump" or, in extreme cases, get burnout.
Should a worker get burnout, it could take them weeks or even months to recover. Therefore, it needs to be avoided at all costs - particularly if the worker in question does a crucial role in the company.
Moreover, after 35 hours per week, people are more likely to make mistakes that take hours to correct. They are also more likely to end up costing company time because of sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and an overall lack of break time.
In other words, this study suggests that the people who work more than 35 hours per week tend to end up costing the company more than they produce in the long run.
Others still maintain that it's a biological issue - as well as a mental issue.
There are a slew of studies that really go deep into work week optimization. One said that it depends on age. Teenagers and young adults work well with long hours at late nights. The same study said that by the time you're in your mid-thirties, you should start to slow down your work week. After 40, you should look at a 25-hour work week at your job.
Another said that it's not about the number of hours you work, as much as it is about mental strength, emotions, and balance. This study showed that being focused, having distractions removed, and also avoiding multitasking is the best way to maximize productivity.
Overall, what seems to be the general consensus is that we should work as much as we can without feeling a comedown, upset, or burnout.
The fact is that every person has a different work balance that makes work at our best. Some of us work best at 35. Others can wing it at 60. It's all about how we feel at our best. So, if you have to ask "how many hours should you work in a week," the answer should be simple: as many as you feel is right.