Money & Business

Are Americans Overworked? This Study Says Yes.

By / Aug 23, 2017 (PeopleImages/Getty Images Plus)

A recent Rand Corporation study finds that many employees work long hours, face on-the-clock harassment and abuse, and often feel like they don’t have enough time to do their jobs well.

There may be a lot less physical labor involved in the information economy than there was in the industrial era, but it doesn’t mean work is easier.

In a new report on the results of its 2015 American Working Conditions Survey (AWCS), the Rand Corporation paints a troublesome picture of the modern American work experience. It outlines significant challenges for today’s employees—specifically, a lack of control over one’s schedule, a high-pressure work environment, a toxic social culture, and a tendency for jobs to spill into free time.

“The AWCS findings indicate that the American workplace is very physically and emotionally taxing, both for workers themselves and their families,” a report summary states. “Most Americans (two-thirds) frequently work at high speeds or under tight deadlines, and one in four perceives that they have too little time to do their job.”

A few key takeaways from the report [PDF]:

Predictable jobs, unpredictable schedules. According to the report, 80 percent of Americans surveyed had steady work throughout the year, but day-to-day schedules were anything but steady. Just 54 percent of employees worked a predictable number of hours, and hours tended to be less stable if the person had a college degree or was under age 35. Slightly less than half of those surveyed had fixed start and finish times.

Social environment challenges. One in five respondents—and nearly one-quarter of respondents under 35—reported having dealt with some sort of abusive or humiliating behavior at work, such as bullying, physical violence, or unwanted sexual attention. Allegations of abuse and violence were far more common among young men who didn’t graduate from college and young women who did. On the plus side, most respondents said they tended to get along with their colleagues, had good work friends, and had a supportive boss.

Not enough time. Are there enough hours in the day to finish the job? Among  male employees under 35, the answer is often no (47.5 percent of those without college degrees, and 33.3 percent of college graduates). Overall, roughly two-thirds of respondents said their jobs forced them to work at high speeds and under tight deadlines, and nearly half said they take some work home with them.

How worried should you be about these trends within your association? In a recent report, Nonprofit Quarterly contributor Martin Levine, a consultant, suggested there were important takeaways for nonprofits from this study.

“As nonprofits, we have a responsibility to understand and respond to the needs of employees,” Levine wrote. “The workplace is full of pressures, especially when it also represents a mission we care deeply about. So, how do we balance that demand with reward? It starts with a more participatory workplace that makes wise use of the human and intellectual capital with which it’s blessed.”

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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