Labor Days: How Executives Work [Infographic]

3 minute read
Marisa Peacock avatar

The theory is the higher you are on a organizational chart, the fewer hours you work. But is that really true? We took a look at the hours logged by those in the C-suite, as well as the types of activities occupying most of their time.

In the United States, Labor Day is a federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September, which celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers. For many of us, Labor Day signifies the end of summer. And if they haven't already, most schoolchildren return to classes after the holiday. On this day, most of us do anything but labor. 

Working Hard or Hardly Working?

While the average C-suite executive works roughly 50 hours or more a week, 28% of managers and executives report working more than 60 hours a week. However, Americans have a flare for the dramatic. While we don't doubt that there are executives working more than 60 hours a week, research shows that most of us tend to overestimate by 5-10 hours. Still, it's a lot any way you look at it. 

And what do CEOs do with their time? 20 hours a week are filled with miscellaneous personal activities, like business travel, exercise and lunch with spouses, while the remaining 35 hours are full of meetings, lunches and events, phone calls and conference calls. The average CEO has only 6 hours of alone time per week to get work done, though many admit to getting more done in that time. Certainly, most C-suite executives could benefit from a course in time-management

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The (Unreasonable) Expectations of Work

The expectations for professionals to check email on the weekend and during vacation doesn't happen by accident. Most executives admit to doing a bit of work during their "free" time, therefore setting the standard for others to respond to the emails they send. They may not intend for others to follow their lead, but once the expectation has been insinuated, it's very hard to undo the damage. Additionally, thanks to the mobile workforce, the line between work hours and off-work hours is blurrier than ever. 

Learning Opportunities

But there's only so much you can blame on emerging technologies. In his book, The Organization Man, William H. Whyte, Jr studied the modern executive's work week -- in the 1950s. His conclusion? He wrote:

Executives are working as hard as they ever did. It is difficult to see how they could possibly work harder. For the corporation man the balanced life is as elusive as ever, possibly more so.

More than sixty years later, are we really better off? 

So, what does this all mean? It means that while we think we're working harder than before, there's little proof that we're working smarter. If executives' worth is measured by how many hours they log in each week, the number is bound to increase steadily. Many have tried to reinforce different standards of work, whether it's the 4-hour work week or Yahoo's no work from home policy. Still, this Labor Day, as we spend the last days of summer at a barbecue or at the beach, it's up to each of us to resist the call of our smartphones and tablet devices and enjoy the one day when those in the executive offices are not expected to work.