What Would It Take to Get You to Work 80 Hours Per Week?

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123RF Stock Photos

I’ve interviewed a ton of people in my career. When I ask people what their normal work week looks like I “often” hear, “Oh, I work 70-80 hrs per week, all the time!”

I instantly know they are lying, because no one works 80 hours per week all the time! Do you really know what 80 hours per week looks like? Here are some examples:

  • 16 hours per day, Monday through Friday. That’s coming in at 6 am and not leaving until 10 pm – EVERY day.


  • 12 hours per day, Monday through Saturday with an EASY 8 hours on Sunday.


  • Oh, and by the way, the two above examples must be with paid lunches and breaks.

Most owners don’t work 80 hours per week

Liars. The only way you work 80 hours per week is if you own the place.

How much would I have to pay you to work 80 hours per week? Would you do it for $10,000 per week? $520K per year? No you wouldn’t; you would quit after a month or two, and  now you’re lying to yourself.

Heck, most owners aren’t even willing to work 80 hours per week. That’s why so many small businesses fail; people underestimate how much it takes to make a business successful!

“Oh, I would work 80 hours per week if I LOVED what I did.” Really? You think you would still LOVE it after working 80 hours per week, week after week, month after month, year after year?

I think it’s incredibly awesome when I meet someone who I truly see loves their job. You know the type: even if they weren’t getting paid, they would be doing what they’re doing. Unfortunately 99.9 percent of us aren’t in a position where we can “work” for free, no matter how much we “love” it. We have bills and responsibilities. We don’t have daddy or a spouse paying our way – we have real life.

80 hours per week = no life

Yeah, 80 hours per week – now you’re thinking about it, right? It’s a lot of time to put forth for one part of your life. How do you get your grocery shopping done? Watch your kids play at school? Get the cat to the vet? Get your haircut? Get your teeth cleaned? See your therapist?!

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As HR Pros we put so much time, effort, and thought into building our rewards and recognition systems. Many of us think we do this so we can get our employees to give us that extra discretionary effort – to work those hours over 40, to get our employees to want to work 80 hours per week.

Unfortunately, most of us have rewards and recognition to just get our people to do the job they were hired for – not extra. When this happens, you no longer have a rewards and recognition system; this now becomes part of their full compensation package. Rewards and recognition shouldn’t be put in place “to get the job done” – it should be put in place to reward and recognize those who do more.

I know what you’re thinking: “Tim, if I could just have a rewards and recognition system that would get my employees to actually work 40 hours, I’d be happy! 80! You’re out of your mind!”

Believe me, I understand, but that’s what we do — or should be doing — for our organizations. Get great talent, keep great talent, find ways to get that great talent to give us everything they’ve got — that equals great HR Pro.

So, what would it take to get you to work 80 hours per week?

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


6 Comments on “What Would It Take to Get You to Work 80 Hours Per Week?

  1. Show me someone who “always works 80 hour weeks” and I’ll show you a facetime junkie.  People may not be able to work steady 80 hour weeks, but they can come in earlier than the boss, count a long lunch as part of the day, count surfing the web at the office, count personal phone calls from the office, leave later than the boss, and then spend 10 minutes checking mail late at night so the boss sees the timestamp and call that yet another hour worked.  Although people can’t work effectively for long hours for long periods of time, as you say, they can practice studied inefficiency to impress an employer who values hours over actual results.

  2. Here’s a nice supplemental article the WSJ ran a few days ago that I’m guessing helped spur this topic : http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203358704577237603853394654.html?mod=WSJ_Careers_CareerJournal_2

    Anyone measuring their effort strictly by hours is approaching things wrong and this should be a red flag. Do they work efficiently? Are processes in place contributing to longer hours that need optimization? Does the individual posses the necessary skills and ability to accomplish the goals while delivering quality and speed?

    Besides business owners (startup employees included), global executives and M&A teams at times – nobody should be working 80 hours a week on the regular.

  3. I am an abrasive blaster in the oil industry we blast risers for platform rigs as well as paint. I work 7 days a week 12 hrs a day my employer provides 5 buffet meals a day they provide catering services bedrooms laundry service all I have to worry about is sleep eAt shower work. It’s usually a 14/7 schedule meaning work 2 weeks straight get 1 off or 5 weeks on 2 off but I know several guys out here who work up to a 100 hrs a week at times. They live here no family or kids and work 365 a year so it’s not bs according to the article ppl do it everyday thanks

  4. While I know it’s not the point of the article, there’s also campaign hours. As in hours that you work while working on a political campaign. It’s not permanent, sure, but it is 7 days a week, usually a minimum of 12 hours a day. Days off are extremely rare, and you just work more the closer you get to the election. I did it for two months, and it was fine, because you’re part of a culture and office where everyone is doing the same thing. I did about 84 hours a week, and I was not the first one in, nor the last one out.

  5. There is a concept I believe in which doesn’t mean that if you work 80 hour weeks, you have no life. Personally, I do not see work life and personal life as two different things. There are jobs (I’m lucky to have one) where you can actually live your life through your job. You meet people, travel, even make friendships, while on the job. In my private life, I like to learn, create things, meet new people. That’s what I also do on the job! So even though I work all day, I also live. Makes sense?

  6. My boyfriend is a farmhand and they work 14 hours (7am-9pm) 6 times a week during harvest. That’s 84 hours a week with Sundays off. They bring a lunch with them that they eat in tractor and the boss brings dinners around around 6. It’s feasible. It sucks, but its feasible.

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