The 40 Hour Workweek Is Gone!

This may come as a shock to older leaders but I think younger leaders understand this. The 40 hour workweek is gone.

The mindset of working 40 hours a week has been destroyed. It’s been crushed. And you must learn to adapt to this new work environment.

Keynote speaker Lance Richards recently shared his thoughts at a Solutions Expo in Grand Rapids on this topic. Which made me want to share my take on his talk.

What Killed The 40 Hour Workweek?

Traditionally, office work has been done in an office or a cubicle. Lately, this work has moved towards an open office.

This still only covers a part of where work takes place.

No longer are employees tied to a fixed workstation. Oh no, they now have access to the office within reach of their fingertips all the time.

Employees are carrying around laptops, tablets, and smartphones that have instant access to work email. They also have access to work documents and contact lists.

Your employees no longer leave work at the office. They’re bringing their work on the road, to their homes, and to their social hangouts.

The electronic revolution has killed the 40 hour workweek.

What A Leader Must Do To Deal With The Death Of 40 Hour Weeks

Older generations are struggling with up and coming millennials who no longer see their workweek as 8-5 or 9-5. They realize their work is always with them.

Richards mentioned organizations are seeing workers thinking they can leave work at 3PM to catch an afternoon ballgame. And current leaders are struggling to deal with this mindset.

They feel employees should be in front of a desk pecking away at a keyboard. Employees need to be seen to be considered working.

As mentioned, work is being done outside of the office. Young employees are working more hours than ever and they’re wanting to see their workplace recognize this.

This is where leaving at 3PM is not a big deal to these employees. They’ve put in work after hours (or even before work) and they feel they’ve earned the right to cut out early.

Your success as a leader of younger employees will come with how you deal with these situations.

Do you crack down and say

No, your schedule is 8-5 and you must be here during those hours. No exceptions. We need you in front of your desk.

Or do you see how the workplace has shifted and begin accommodating the extra hours your team has put in? Is it time you say:

Tom, I know you’re always connected to the office. You’re probably checking work email before you go to bed and shortly after you wake up. You’re also doing work from home. Feel free to take the afternoon off and catch the ballgame. You’ve earned it.

With the changing landscape of work, leaders must be willing to shift from saying 1 to saying 2.

Your team is working more hours than ever before. They’re creating value for your organization from the office as well as from home.

Honor this commitment from your team by showing them the organization is flexible.

Question: How are you dealing with the changing landscape of the workplace? Are you willing to be flexible with working hours or are you holding to fast and hard rules? Let’s talk about this in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Yes and yes, you are right! I am in that boat, I work from anywhere with an internet connection! I love it, there are some freeing points and some new challenges. For those that can adapt, I believe this is a good thing.

    • That’s got to be an awesome feeling Paul. Are you working for an organization or yourself? Organizations, especially larger ones, are having difficulties grasping this concept.

      • Very true, its harder to manage so harder to adapt on a large scale. I started my own company to help business grow in their marketing efforts. You can check it out at Thanks for asking.

  • Great observations, Joe. I haven’t heard anyone talking about this, but it is a very real tension in the workplace, including in the teaching profession (which I’m in) and in the local church. The thing is, organizations can’t have it both ways. It’s either 9-5 and the employee shouldn’t be expected to return messages/calls outside those hours, or it should be more flexible. Personally, I really value flexibility and convenience. With technology today, we have to be more flexible with people who can do work remotely.

    • I’m with you on the convience and flexibility of being able to work anywhere. The trouble comes when, like what was talked about, the organization doesn’t accomodate those extra hours.

      Have you seen any organization do this well?

      • Not really up close, except for my college, which has been very good about letting profs be flexible with their schedules. A lot of my job is online, though, so I probably have an advantage over other traditional teachers.

        • It sounds like there is some leeway there with your online work. The college realizes technology is changing and you can do work from wherever you are.

  • Joe, great topic. I deal with this weekly. I work for a company that has the 8-5 mindset. However, I have a team that travels and work at all times. I have started allowing more flexibility to my team because I want them to be productive and not just killing time. I have received some push-back from the internal group.

    I also make sure I remind my team to shutdown when they need to. We don’t need to be working all the time just because we are connected all the time. Its important to remember to be present with family and friends. If you are on vacation be on vacation, not on your phone.

    Balance is really important. At the end of the day most of us will end up working 1/3 of the day for about 50 years. I really don’t want to squander my life or my employees lives away to get 1 more dollar. When I think by working smart, being productive when it matters may generating 10X more but with less stress involved.

    • You’ve got a great mindset Brandon. We seem to want to push for more hours to get a little extra. Sometimes, we can reverse that and work less hours and produce more.

      Or, like your team, they’re traveling and spending a lot of time on the road. This is time spent away from home and family and technically on the clock of your organization. These times should be recognized for what they are: Work.

      With the internal push back you’ve received, have you seen any hope that things may change?

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  • Where I work for (at least my department ) is very flexible with our hours. For the most part we need to come in but we don’t have hard set specific hours. We can work remote when needed but since we work as a team though it is a bit easier when we are physically together.

    The only think that concerns me is the working more hours part. Dedication to work is great, but their is more to life.

    • That’s great Jon. And I agree with your parting sentiments. Our lives should be lived, not worked.

  • Ryan Shaffer

    Great article Joe. Our workplace is dealing with this right now. The key factors in my opinion are:

    1. Mobility is a two-edged sword. Work following us every where we go (due to mobile devices) is dangerous to our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. If we don’t learn to manage it wisely, and have employers who also have a mindset to help us to get some downtime, we will quickly burn out and become totally un-productive.

    2. Learn when to unplug. We need to make sure that we do take time to un-plug and get away from our mobile devices and social networks from time-to-time in order to recharge and replenish our bodies, minds, and souls. This is also key for managers to watch for. With this new mobility revolution, managers need to keep an eye on their workers stress levels, burnout potential, and productivity in a whole new way and try to help them find the time to rest. One of the best ways that I’ve found is by having weekly update (or touch-base) meetings to discuss what’s happening, what struggles are going on, and what plans are in the works.

    3. Respect other mindsets. As we move toward mobility and attempt to shift working schedules and methods, we need to also be mindful of those who have a mindset that views work differently. Some people simply don’t understand mobility or can’t focus enough to do their work in a cyber cafe, while others can. This comes down to management keeping a close eye on their employees and their productivity so that they can know when to step in and say “perhaps you should get out of here for the afternoon so you can catch up on your documentation” or “I’ve been noticing that you’re very productive here in the office, so I’d like to have you around here more” depending upon the employee.


    • Thanks Ryan. This is definitely a subject that needs to be discussed more.

      The factors you listed are spot on. I want to touch on some things I see in regards to them.

      1. Sadly, the onus for time boundaries falls on the employees themselves. When they’re unable to say “No, I have other obligations” or “No, this is off work hours. If I take this on, it will have to be paid,” employers jump on this and begin to abuse it.

      2. I like your idea of weekly touches where teams can discuss what’s happening and the areas they see as trouble.

  • All true and some flexibility is needed. On the other hand, entitlement can kill a career.

    • You’re right Skip, entitlement can be a career killer. Though it could, possibly, save someone from a bad career as well.

      While some of this post may come off as giving employees permission to be entitled, do you think there are companies out there who feel entitled to the whole employee, not just the time they put in at work but also what they do after work? Isn’t that a form of entitlement as well?

      • Generally, I don’t think companies “feel” anything but there are individuals who take advantage of others and who are just bad bosses. These people intrude into personal lives in a way that saps energy. But all of us should take responsibility for our actions. No one owns us. Work intrudes on our lives at home, but our home lives often intrude into work. We should remain focused on our goals. After all, if you are overachieving, no good boss would question you or micromanage to that extreme. At least that is my hope and my view.

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