In the late 1970s America’s annual working hours, after declining for decades, began to steadily increase. Today Americans work more hours than do people in any other Western nation. Yet at the same time most real middle class incomes in this country stagnated and in some cases even declined. Young male workers were particularly hard hit: In the early 2000s, men ages 25-34 made less than did their fathers at a similar age. Of course we all know where the money went. The huge discrepancy between C-level executives and the rest of us has become a simple matter of fact; as have pay cuts, benefit reductions, layoffs and slippery “employee at will” contracts.
Despite this we continue to work ever harder — and admire those who do. Yet there is no evidence that long hours contribute to real productivity in the work place, and plenty of evidence that they do not.
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Let’s acknowledge that even high power lawyers, government workers, business people, academics and magazine editors — male and female — require time not only with families, but alone with their own thoughts. Why not be bold and mandate that work end with the end of weekday?