Fear keeps Americans working overtime

US workers dedicate as much as 10 hours of their personal time to job-related tasks while hoping those jobs won't go away.

By Jason Notte Sep 4, 2013 11:02AM
Image: Businesswoman using laptop and telephone © Terry Vine, Blend Images, Getty ImagesHours? Schedules? Life balance? U.S. workers have no idea what any of the aforementioned words mean.

CNBC points to a Harris Interactive survey that indicates more than 91% of U.S. workers do work-related tasks on their personal time. Of those, 37% devote more than 10 off-the-clock hours to work each week.

Do Americans just take that much pride in their work and have some much ambition to spare that they can't imagine themselves slowing down for a second? Nope, they're just trying to keep their paychecks intact and their jobs secure.

Yet another survey by Gallup finds that since the economic crisis peaked in 2009, there's been no better time to exploit the U.S. workforce for longer hours and less pay.

A full 43% of U.S. workers are afraid they're going to have their benefits cut, down just slightly from 46% in 2009. Another 31% see a pay cut in their future, which is nearly the same as the 32% from four years earlier. Meanwhile, 29% are worried that they'll be laid off, which is a smaller percentage than the 32% in 2009, but still greater than the 26% who feared getting the ax in 2010.

In truth, U.S. workers absolutely hate their jobs. Roughly 52% of all full-time workers in the U.S. are not involved in their work and put only as much into it as they're forced to. Of those, 18% are "actively disengaged" and so bitter about their work that they're actively trying to sabotage the workplace and make life miserable for everyone else.

Why? Because they've watched their paychecks drop, the people around them get fired and the paychecks of the executive who run the place stay put through it all. The Labor Department says average wages are sliding. The economy has regained just 5.7 million of the 8.7 million jobs shed during the recession, but 65% of those jobs are low-wage. Never mind that nearly 60% of all jobs lost during the slump paid middle-income wages or better, according to the National Employment Law Project.

So, forget about all that "up-by-the-bootstraps" rhetoric and "pride-in-a-job-well-done" puffery: In the U.S., 50% of workers are doing work on their vacation days just to make sure there's a job to go back to. If they're taking vacation days at all.

In an ideal world, they'd have no problem trading places with their counterparts in the U.K., only 34% of whom ever check in with the office while on holiday.

Americans aren't workaholics, they're work inmates hoping that better times will grant them release.

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Sep 4, 2013 11:33AM
We are but 1/3 of the way through this arbitrage called globalization.  We will see even more and more compression of wages and buying power.  The lowly uninformed American has been sold out by his elected representative and to show their support they keep reelecting them.  Not one iota improvement for the average American until he realizes just how important an educated vote can be.
Sep 4, 2013 1:45PM
This article is so true. Sums up my situation perfectly.
Sep 4, 2013 2:32PM
In my 50 years in the workforce I did more than my share of overtime. I learned early on that when your employer needs overtime they need you to work. if you say no enough of times and they manage to get along without you, it won't take long before the boss figures out that he really doesn't need you because they can get it done without you....... even if your wages are not what you'd like, any wage is better than no wage......so unless you have another job lined up, you learn to put up with it and shut up....... it's called earning a living.
Sep 4, 2013 12:26PM

Fear  of government mandates, regulations, cost and taxes, keeps companies from hiring.  This is especially true as unit sales in most industries remain flat.  Why hire, when you can pay overtime at 1.5 times normal? 


As long as government continues to grow the employment picture will remain dim.  Mr. Obama is clueless about the job and economy.   He believes in big government and is a step away from creating 5 year government run programs. 


We will have to wait at least 3 more years before the situation improves.  The question is can the FED continue 85B a month in printing for 3 more years without economic collapse.   Place your bets...

Sep 4, 2013 12:06PM
In the end, perception is reality in most work environments.  You have to have balance and only a fool would slave for a paycheck.  Have faith in yourself and live within your means.  You will only regret and pay the price for working like a dog.  Oh, and stop voting for the dummyrats.
Sep 4, 2013 3:22PM

 - And all will be well as usual.

Sep 4, 2013 12:37PM
Fear not brothers.  Continue working and growing the motherland so that our beloved leaders may continue to keep the axis of evil at bay and bring justice to the world.

Stay tuned for further instructions.

Sep 4, 2013 3:42PM

Oh boy does this hit home!  I have said this about corporations and government for five years.  A case in point, I was just on a boring long conference call and noticed that none of the "bosses" on this call when they asked their subordinates to do something did they ask "please do this".


The 1% are in control and I am mad as hell and cannot do a thing about it as I want and need to keep my non-managerial job.

Sep 4, 2013 5:06PM

I work for a large corporation and I work through my lunch (off the clock-don't think they don't know this, every keystroke I do is monitored) ;  if I am asked do something I jump on it. I need my job.  We are all lemmings. They ask us to do these stupid company (so- called anonymous) surveys on what a great company they are to work for , blah blah blah.  We saw one of our co-workers answer one of these so called anonymous surveys and he answered exactly what he was thinking and was called to the managers office. You can guess the rest.   


Of course we are busting our a**es- we  need our jobs, we need to eat,

Sep 5, 2013 3:44PM

I only see that 19 people commented on this...I guess the other 98.9999% were working 10 hours days...thank goodness I took a minute out of my day to comment.



Sep 4, 2013 2:40PM
Work smart, not constantly. Once there was the commando-type executive who thought we younger people needed to work 16 hours days or we "weren't walking and talking the business". He was taken away one day, apparently after the 8 hours we normally worked, his other 8 wasn't walking or talking OUR line of business.
Sep 4, 2013 1:17PM
Wages are down--CEO pay up--so what do most of the idiots do--vote Republican--they deserve the consequences.
Sep 4, 2013 1:03PM

Mirage guy;Nothing new from you.You`re still ignoring the facts.Housing up,car sales

up,stocks up bigtime.THANK OBAMA !

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