Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Todd Johnson, USA
"They feel like they're working to survive."
 real 28k

Liu Jiang-gang, China
"On the one hand, work makes life. On the other hand, work eats into life."
 real 28k

Bharat Bhsushan, Germany
"They won't find a life if they stay in front of their computer."
 real 28k

Gregory Johnson, USA
"I work too hard and too long but I enjoy it."
 real 28k

Peter Green
"I think it's very difficult to have a normal social life with your family and friends when we work the way we do."
 real 28k

Thursday, 10 February, 2000, 14:59 GMT
Do we work too hard?

Across the United States and the UK the trend seems to be to work longer and harder. We are always busy, always stressed.

The 'job for life' is disappearing, insecurity rules and we often take our work home in the effort to stay ahead of the game.

Does working too long result in inefficiency? Do we still have enough time for ourselves and our families?

Should work be restructured to reflect the changing social and business pressures? Do you think we should work less in the new millennium?

Click below to watch Talking Point On Air

Read what you have said since the programme

Read and hear a reflection of your comments during the programme

Read what you said before we went ON AIR

Your comments since the programme

Any country that wants to get more people into work must reduce the hours of its present workforce. This in my opinion will allow further citizens access to employment.
Huw Griffith, Wales

The thought of 9-5, Monday to Friday for the next 40 years, with 20 days holiday makes me feel sick.
Dan, UK
I am 21, I have worked in IT for 4 years and I am thinking about a career change already. Why? Because the thought of 9-5, Monday to Friday for the next 40 years, with 20 days holiday makes me feel sick, if not suicidal. When not going to or from work I am at work or sleeping, I see very little of my family and rarely have time to unwind. I would have thought that with all this technology week could work less and play more, but no. The few people at the top make the millions at the bottom work harder so they can live better.
Dan, UK

More time at work only means accidents and bad decisions, reduction in quality. Making effective use of time is more important. With so-called "flexitime" companies get lots of real overtime without actually paying for it. Sadly the employers always have the upper hand.
John C, Sweden

I think that we do work hard over here. However does this mean that the quality of our work is better than that of our overseas colleagues that work fewer hours?
Brian Wright, UK

WORK TO LIVE. You must have this attitude otherwise you end up working yourselves to the bone.
Kathy, England
WORK TO LIVE. You must have this attitude otherwise you end up working yourselves to the bone. I agree people here in the UK are working harder and longer hours but this is happening because we have to not because we want to. Especially for us that live in London it is so expensive that you need to work longer hours to keep up with the cost of living. I say pay more, work less!
Kathy, England

I agree with Colin, from the US, most people are working longer hours, but actually working less efficiently. For those in the manual labour/service industries, the levels of pay are often pitifully low, so many people rely on overtime. However for white-collar workers, the job should be made easier by new technology, but it is not - Why, they do not use what they have to its full extent. Where I work, we have nearly all the "office" type computer utilities but don't use them to their full potential because people are too lazy to learn how to use them properly.
Rob, Finland

We work so hard because the UK is a puppet to the US and its economic power. The UK also has little in the way of culture or identity, outside of shopping, TV and money.
Kevin Archer, GB
We work so hard because the UK is a puppet to the US and its economic power. The UK also has little in the way of culture or identity, outside of shopping, TV and money. The more you work the more you get paid. People are afraid to be seen as lazy or slack so they work longer in order to climb the ladder. Many European countries have holidays, saints days festivals, carnivals parties etc. especially Italy. We have bitten the American apple and been thrown out of the garden. Money and work are the new gods.
Kevin Archer, GB

Are we working too hard? Some of us, yes. Others, no. It seems the workload of the many is now resting on the few... How about 2/3rd working hours in exchange for 1 1/2 times the jobs?
Adrian Paul Miles, Birmingham, UK

A happy medium between the French model and Anglo-American model should be the goal. We want to work hard, but not into the ground.
Andrew Cline, USA

All work and no play makes jack a dull boy.
Akwasi Acquah, Ghana
I think like it has been said before that all work and no play makes jack a dull boy, continuous work without a break for tension release could be disastrous for any body who aims at achieving something by the close of the day. Even though it is important that we work, we cannot finish working for the rest of our lives in one day.
Akwasi Acquah, Ghana

For someone who's still in school, this is not an impossible question to answer: People are competitive and they want more and more. Maybe it's also a way of "hiding" from real life.
Claudia, Netherlands

I find that some people who choose to work long find very little success elsewhere except at work. They use work as an excuse to avoid doing other things. These are successful workers, but by no means successful persons.
Suppose that you knew you would have died after tomorrow. Would you wish to spend your last day on earth to finish up your project, or wish to spend it with, for example, your sister? If you couldn't answer, ask your sister.
Hai Tran, Canada

I must create a system, or become enslaved by another man's.
Vera Zwaga, Netherlands
I must create a system, or become enslaved by another man's. I am busy with creating the new system that will work for me. I fought computer technology for years, until I saw someone's TV ad showing a man sitting on the beach doing his office work on a laptop. Another MaiTai please!!
Vera Zwaga, Netherlands

I am blind and working as a support person for the blind students at our local Danish university. For blind people the new computer technology in theory and to a large degree in the real world can give us access to written materials and to all the communication that we just 10 years ago had no way of accessing.
I also experience long working days but my commitment to my job is very strong because the work I am doing, trying to make more information accessible for blind people also benefits myself both on the job and also in all other areas of life.
Because not all technology is developed so it can be used with the special computer programs we use for enlargement of text or output in speech or Braille, I have a very critical view towards technology.
Our experience is that it is not as such the technology in itself that creates the problems, but the people who takes decisions regarding development or use of technology. As it was said on the program managers have not understood how to work with technology. Too often technology decisions are taken by managers who do not understand the issues they are asked to decide.
Claus Thøgersen, Denmark

It's not necessarily the hours that we have to work, it's the importance we place on it.
Wendy S, UK
It's not necessarily the hours that we have to work, it's the importance we place on it. Work is very much tied to identity and ego, defining our sense of who we are and of how much we have achieved.
This is why people get so stressed and allow themselves to work in these ridiculous sterile environments.
Wendy S, UK

Nobody should be required either directly or indirectly to work more than 40 hours a week. But nobody should be prevented from doing so if they choose to. Simple as that.
Peter, UK

Some of your contributors have talked about damage to health from working too long. What I would like to know is if it makes any different what kind of work one does. Farmers in my country, Ghana, get up early, go to the farm and come home late, but they presumably get a lot of exercise, which is supposed to be healthy. A market woman on the other hand works the same long hours, but leads a pretty sedentary life. Am I to understand that both suffer equal health damages just because they work long hours?
Abena Gyebi Obeng, Germany

I am more inclined to think we work to live. Let me explain. With the rising standards and with the rising costs of living, many people these days would find that they have no choice but work more if they want to maintain their "ideal" lifestyles. It is easy to say that health and happiness are more important, but the truth is, a lot of happiness today does come from material things, so how does one maintain this kind of material well-being? Work more! Yet, when we overwork, our health is ignored and we have to spend money seeing the doctor. The fact is, to live life to the fullest requires the magic Vitamin M (for money) be it little or a lot, and it's only through work that we get it. No money's going to drop from the sky!
James L, Singapore

I'd love to add to your 'Do we work too hard' discussion, but I'm just too busy right now!
Howard Silverfarb, Indonesia

Whether the amount of work you do crosses the line and becomes OVERWORK depends on three things: 1. Whether you love job your job and would probably do it as a hobby in your spare time; 2: Your natural body clock; 3: Your whole outlook on life. If you are a generally positive optimistic person, you work only the hours your body clock prefers (only early shift or only night work) and if you have a real passion for what you are doing - you will probably be able to do well over what other people would consider was healthy for you. Although it's wise to listen to the advice of others, it's more important than anything to listen to yourself, know your limitations and work accordingly.
Michael Watkins, London, UK

Being in a third world country, there are tremendous opportunities arising in working at home. However, these opportunities have not yet caught on by the general public. However, more Jamaicans are taking advantage of the opportunity to study via the internet with first world universities. As to whether we work too hard. Yes we do because we are not fully aware of the efficiency and ease that technology often brings. This has its positive, since the optimal use of technology in some agencies have seen a massive re-engineering of the work force, resulting in massive down sizing and right sizing. Thus hundreds of jobs have been lost through layoffs and redundancies.
Ava Tomlinson, Jamaica

I'm a firm believer in maintaining a balance between my work and stress. My boss of ten years is very sick today. He acquired adult diabetes and just completed a quintuple heart bypass to save his life. He is 53. His family is dysfunctional and his children really do not know him. He slaved after the very things I realised I didn't need. I'm 44, happier and healthier today after giving up fifteen years ago a creed for more money, power, prestige and status. So many are driven in pursuit of these credentials and it saddens me when I go to work to see them so hungry.
Phillip Harley, USA

I have a friend who works 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. To me, that's insane. But he loves it. This is his dream job and as someone once said "find a job you enjoy and you never have to work a day of your life". From his point of view he gets up every day, does whatever he wants and then gets paid for it!
Henry, UK

Myself I work for my brother who owns a small civil engineering company and the satisfaction I get is purely that I am contributing to the welfare of my family,I am single and living with my mother who is a pensioner and not working.I sometimes put in long hours at the office but I enjoy the environment in which I work. I agree with one of your callers who said that in the third world it is more important the fact that you have a job at all when I see the unemployment in this country.
Daniel Giraud, Durban, South Africa

Most of you respondents appear to be educated, articulate people talking about 'white collar' work.. What about the great majority of workers in and assembly work? They have no control over how. when or where they work.
Michael Read, Auckland, New Zealand

Your comments during the programme

I'm 24 years old, I've been working at least 10 years of my life, including through high school and college. You work your way through all these things and get to the big time of your life when it's time to become a professional and you find it's not cracked up what it is supposed to be. People I grew up who I'm very close with you can see shifts in actually the people they are as far as bitterness. They feel like they're working to survive.
Todd Johnson, Kansas, USA

The wealthy information workers, who are the only ones who can afford this, will increasingly spend less and less time actually interacting with the people who provide all the services that make their (our) wages possible.
Katrina Glerum
Whether or not you enjoy your work is of primary importance. Many working people "lead lives of quiet desperation" as Thoreau said. Those who genuinely enjoy their work will find the time to enjoy their lives outside the workplace as well because joy is part of their existence.
Helen Elesari, Tel Aviv

I work both from home and onsite with clients as a web developer. It's a lot of fun and hard to call work. Sometimes work goes for 36 hours straight but the necessary breaks I take (sometimes days) enable me to both enjoy life and remain enthusiastic about what I do. Time out is as important as time in.
Steve Forster, Australia Here in the States there seems to be a feeling that we live to work. In other countries, it seems that people work to live. In the States, the booming economy has helped many to have opportunities they never would have had in other countries. The down side of this booming economy is that we work to pay the banks, the government, and sacrifice what matters most - family and our neighbours. Teleworking sounds very promising. No traffic jams, except on the phone lines, and just maybe, our neighborhoods would not be "ghost towns" during the day.
Tom McNiff, USA

As a San Francisco "dot com" 'er I'm interested by the growth of services intended to make it easier for corporate and technical workers to never need to go home, never need to leave work early to do anything. Sure, it's convenient to have your groceries and dry cleaning delivered and your bills paid automatically and so forth, but one of the consequences is that it is contributing to the growth of a technocracy. The wealthy information workers, who are the only ones who can afford this, will increasingly spend less and less time actually interacting with the people who provide all the services that make their (our) wages possible. Given how libertarian so many of these citizens are already, I find this an alarming trend.
Katrina Glerum

I see work as a contradiction. On the one hand, work makes life, on the other hand, work eats into life. When one does not have work, he has no life, he has no food for his children or himself or his spouse. But when he has too much time to spend on work he has very little time for his family or his children. As a result, the children may feel they are less taken care of by their parents and may grow isolated from their parents.
Liu Jian-gang, China

I am an American who lives and works outside my country, now for six years (Eastern Europe and Russia). Compared to the US, the work culture here naturally dictates a more balanced life. The unexpected benefit was, surprisingly, becoming more productive. In addition, before I left the US, even though I had an interesting job, the sheer volume of the work made it impossible to enjoy my successes due to the unending list of remaining tasks and being chronically fatigued. Moving out of that work-obsessed culture was the best move I ever made! Most of my working life was spent in the US so I have had a good opportunity to understand the differences.
Vicky Gross

I've met very many people and they tell that they don't seem to find lives so they absorb themselves into work, but they claim to recognise they won't find a life if they stay in front of their computer, stay in front of their machine.
Bharat Bhushan, Germany

.Unfortunately, nobody mentioned that some people would like to work the 60 hours a week that were mentioned earlier, but they are not able to. More and more people are diagnosed with a chronic illness, like for instance chronic fatigue syndrome. With such an illness, it is impossible to work that many hours, even if we want to. The problem is, that since society is so much into careers and high profiles, we are being called all kinds of names because we cannot keep up with that pace. Although we are glad we can have a sort of normal life, I have a normal job which sometimes requires more than a 40 hour work week, the outside world simple refuses to acknowledge that. I hope that in the future people will start to acknowledge that there is more in life than career and money.
Monique Poesiat, Netherlands Antilles

I m a translator - and I sometimes end up working maybe 90 hours a week. And sometimes half that. I have the following questions: 1) What is the BALANCE? You are saying there is none -- well then, what is the target? 2) I have the feeling that free time has become something of a 'sacred cow' - how many of those people who have a lot of free time spend it reasonably, creatively, with their families? Wouldn't it be better, rather than fighting for more free time, to teach and learn how to use our free time more reasonably?
Ondrej Roldan, Prague, Czech Republic

With reference to today's Talking Point, I think that people are bound experience stress & strain as there is spread and expansion of globalisation. The people as always will adjust & learn to live with it. Only solution I believe could be that countries formulate there own plan on working hours which best suits them without having to bother what takes place in other countries.
Umesh Kumar

I have many friends that used to be social and outgoing, and are now buried for hours on end behind a computer screen... I do not like the trend either.....
Kevin Richardson, Bellevue, Kentucky

I could not make ends meet on 35 hours a week or afford to employ double shift staff. Legislated hours are fine for employed people but must impact poorly on employers. I think that shorter working hours is a good idea in some developed countries but impractical in undeveloped countries where there is no social support or proper amenities through which to enjoy the extra hours. The majority of the world's population can only dream of working these sort of hours and work because they have to.
Mike Mills

I am liberated, in that I can work with my clients all around the world, while being free to live just about anywhere I choose.
Scott MacNeill
I work too hard and too long but I enjoy it. I work for a large computer manufacturer. I do go into work and work about 60 hours a week. What I found is that some people enjoy work and some people don't. The ones who enjoy work, work long. The ones who don't want to get out of work.
Gregory Johnson, USA

I am working right now in my home in Italy. I am a self-employed USA citizen who has been both liberated and enchained by the new work world of the computer: I am liberated, in that I can work with my clients all around the world, while being free to live just about anywhere I choose. I am, however, chained as I have to work to meet my client imposed deadlines, which means that sometimes I work 11 hours a day, seven day a week. During slow periods I can go without working for a week or two at a stretch. I don't like the amount of time I am forced to work but the new work world has allowed me to see and live a life away from the office, daily commuting and participate in my child's daily life (I am responsible for my son's daily lunch).
Scott MacNeill

It's 0040 on Monday morning here in Adelaide, South Australia, and I'm working. I'll keep working until about 0900 and then go to sleep. My natural body-clock is about 30-hours long, and since I'm self-employed and single, I can work when I want and how long I want. Since I love my Internet-based job, and I work for myself, I'm happy to work 16-20 hours a day. I don't see how a person who works 35 hours a week for someone else, with no stake in the success of the business, has any chance of competing in the long run. I may die young, but I'm going to cram an extra decade in before I die.
Henry Penninkilampi, Business Manager, Metropolitan Internet Services

I'm calling from the office now, on a Sunday. I've been at work all week. I work 10 days in Norway and I have four days off. In the 20 to 22 days a month I work, I put in about 200 hours. It is a lot. Those 20 to 22 days are away from home. I'm 43 years old, and I'm getting to the philosophical stage and I really think certain things are out of balance. I think it's very difficult to have a normal social life with your family and friends when we work the way we do.
Peter Green, Norway

We all need money to survive but when money and work becomes like a god to you then your private relationships will suffer greatly - no wonder marriages are on the rocks and co-habitation is on the increase. To work long hours at the expense of your private life is no life at all. If you regard relationships as more important then your job will be at risk. Which is more important WORK or FAMILY?
Paul Jonas, United Kingdom

As a consulting engineer in the construction industry there is an expectation that overtime is required to achieve deadlines. Deadlines are becoming more and more unrealistic in the drive to maximise returns. Consequently significant amounts of overtime are expected with little or no reward. Such overtime negates the necessity of employing additional staff while creating an unhealthy and unhappy working environment. Compulsory overtime restrictions are necessary to stop this exploitation. Two possible benefits could be happier more productive employers and lower unemployment. The French will not be left behind as sick/stress leave reduces, people stay with an employer and productivity increases.
Brett Gray, Perth, Australia

Your comments before we went ON AIR

I am more inclined to think we work to live. With the rising standards and with them rising costs of living, many people these days would find that they have no choice but work more if they want to maintain their "ideal" lifestyles.
It is easy to say that health and happiness are more important, but the truth is, a lot of happiness today does come from material things, so how does one maintain this kind of material well-being? Work more! Yet, when we overwork, our health is ignored and we have to spend money seeing the doctor.
The fact is, to live life to the fullest requires the magic Vitamin M (for money) be it little or a lot, and it's only through work that we get it. No money's going to drop from the sky!!
James L, Singapore

With the amount of persecution of travellers and 'dossers' who have the right idea how to live life, its no wonder people get sucked into working the rat race just to have a roof over their heads
Geordie, UK

Since I left those inefficient, tiresome, political minefields that offices are, I haven't been happier.
Nick Marshall, Australia
Something no one thinks when they talk about teleworking is the provision of technical support. If your PC crashes in the office you just call the Help Desk and a techie from IT appears to fix the problem and if the problem cannot be fixed quickly your PC can be replaced from the IT Dept Stores. But how do you provide technical support for scores of teleworkers spread all over the country ?. I am an IT techie and we in the IT department find teleworkers to be a complete pain in the neck. They suspect the same sort of support as they would get in an office and don't seem to understand that someone working on a Help Desk cannot just drop everything and come and visit their home to resolve a problem. PC technology needs to become more reliable and communications faster and cheaper before Teleworking becomes the norm.
Alan Tyne, UK

I used to work in a number of those awful "open-plan" (now isn't THAT oxymoronic?) offices when I went out to work. All that ever happened was that my work day was disturbed by people and incidents that just got in the way of my efficiency. Since I got jack of it all and decided to go out on my own and open my own consultancy a year and a half ago, I find I can do all the work I have to do in a fraction of the time and whenever i wish, be it for a teleconference at 0500, or if I "get the bug" to work, at midnight. I can wake up at 0800, and be at work at 0801. I have no need to go in to any office as I can video-conference with people on the internet, which is just as well as my clients are all transpacific...I appreciate this might not work well for all people, but since I left those inefficient, tiresome, political minefields that offices are, I haven't been happier.
Nick Marshall, Australia

I've been teleworking on a freelance basis from home for the past 3 years, and on the whole I'm very satisfied with the arrangement. For employees I believe it's a definite plus on a part-time basis. No traffic jams, no office politics, no nasty boss's whims, no gossip, I'm there for my kids when they come home from school and I have more patience for them. I don't have to ask for leave. I am my own boss. So long as the work gets done and there's enough work to do both sides are satisfied. It can never be a strict 9 to 5 arrangement, urgent deadlines mean that my working hours can stretch to late evening, and the lack of social contact are the three minuses of this work-style. But weighed against all the pros, I vote for teleworking. It is still very far from the norm in this country but I imagine it will catch on in the not too distant future. From the company's point of view it is undoubtedly more economical and more productive.
Miriam Herman, Israel

With such a huge proportion of the world's population still living in abject poverty, it is insulting and pathetic for us pampered babes of the West to even ask this question! Try living in Nigeria before you complain about life in the West, or even think about claiming that you "work too hard". With our mechanisation, automation and clean environment, we don't even know what real work is!
Michael Conomos, Australia

Work is a great thing as a balanced part of our lives. What bothers me is when the global economy dictates that we might have to work for example an 80 hour week to compete in the marketplace, or to keep our jobs. The quality of life for all flies out the window for the masses. What happens to people when human needs and the global economy are at conflict?
Tracy Eggleton, Australia

It seems that people are divided into those who have too much money and not enough time and those who have time on their hands but no money to enjoy it. Consumerism has slaves of us, making us work as much as we possibly can in order to maximise our purchasing power. So the workload is unfairly distributed - half of us without work, half overstressed. The old imperialistic view of the attitude of the non-European - work as much as you need to live - suddenly seems much more sensible.
John Stephenson, Czech Republic 

Are bosses ready for any such forward thinking or sensible options?
Sam Patterson, UAE

The greatest fear I hold for our future working lives is isolation. We may well find ourselves sitting in our home, tapping away at our computer keyboards, good God, that's what I'm doing now, in the hope that there'll be somebody out there. An inward looking world is not one that I find attractive. Our social skills withering on the branch, so should a partner cross our cyber path it is a relationship doomed to failure from the start, given our acquired intolerance of views and habits other than our own. The work place provides a vital training ground for tolerance and social skills, we pack it off to a dust backroom of history at our peril.
Paul McCabe, Sweden

I don't feel people are necessarily more productive if they work longer hours. There should be an emphasis on quality rather than quantity and new measures implemented in this 21st century to make the workplace more flexible to coincide with changing values in society.
Jacqueline Hili, The Netherlands

I think that the pursuit of leisure is a function of economic well being. The populace in the developing world are trying to acquire items which the western developed world take for granted. This largely explains why a person from a developing country will take menial jobs in a developed world often at rates which natives would not. I reiterate that pursuing leisure activities is a function of economic well being . As I write this I am at my office desk (and listening to the BBC).
Arthur Ndowora

The problem is that at the end of the day we all work for the government in this country.... so it is pointless to work hard for the bureaucracy... vive les 35 heures!
Stephane Dageot, France

Having worked for many years in the post-production industry (special effects for film and television), I can make the following comparison. In London it was not unusual to work 50-80 hours per week for a fixed salary. In California, where I now reside, the law stipulates mandatory overtime payments after 8 hours per day, so I end up earning more money for less hours. Although both situations are less than perfect, my work experience has taught me that the UK system is unfair. After all, the overtime hours paid in the US are at least moving me more quickly towards a time that I slow down or retire.
SS, USA formally UK

I quite often work from home, roughly 2-3 days a month. As I commute to Sweden every week I find working from a welcome break. I really enjoy it and feel that it increases the quality of my life. I also find that my work quality is better. The problems I find is lack of good technology in general. A very link such as ISDN should be the bare minimum for good connection. Regards
Amar Mahad, UK

First of all, Europe get a grip. Do you honestly think cutting working hours are going to help anything in the long run. I don't think so!! Its just going to set things behind and encourage laziness. I don't know what they teach in Europe, but in the USA they teach us to be as productive as possible in a day. And the productiveness that my country has mastered has brought us to the height of the world. Notice that we are the most united, strongest, healthiest, and the most wealthy country in the world, take some notes and see how its really done.
John Jones, The great United States of America

I can't understand the logic by which some people are slogging their guts out for a minimum of eight hours a day, while other people are searching for work and unable to find it. If there's only a certain amount of paid work available, why can't it be spread around more evenly? What would happen if the normal working day was only six hours instead of eight? Wouldn't that mean there would be more work available for the people who are now - unwillingly - unemployed? Naturally that means that salaries would have to be lower for everyone. But why is that less acceptable than some people earning full salaries while others earn nothing?
Anna Lowenstein, Zagarolo, Italy

I could do so many positive things if I was not at my desk, tapping at my keyboard for 10 hours or more every day
John, UK
I looked up at the stars the other night after coming home from work. I thought, do they care if I put in a 10 or 12 hour day? Will they applaud me when I am dead? What difference will I have made to the world? I am not a great scientist, playright, politician or religious leader. I work in IT for a large business. Sure I can do a professional job, which I do. But, will anything I do in the workplace make a lasting difference? I doubt it. So, should I not strive for a balance between work and home in the hope that I might make a difference there? I could be a good husband, one day a good father. I could get involved in my local community. I could do so many positive things if I was not at my desk, tapping at my keyboard for 10 hours or more every day. Sounds appealing I have to admit!
John, UK

Though we are working extra hard and putting in extra hours we are not able to lead a quality life let alone a luxurious one. I am a chemical engineer working in a company in Hyderabad, India, for twelve hours in the midst of OBNOXIOUS FUMES which can easily make our eyes cry. Sridhar, India

Allison,USA - I second that. What are the Brits whinging about? A 40 hour week?!! I have worked in UK before and now I work for an American company and we work at least 65 hours a week! Sometimes it is about choice, other times it is the lack of competency amongst others that results in inefficiency, sometimes it is because only you can get the job done, sometimes there is NO choice, there are many reasons why we work long hours. Long hours is not just applicable to the "drones", it is applicable even to the highest level.

Moving forwards is about downsizing, getting the "right" people in, and with technology, you are NOT even given the chance to switch off i.e emails, virtual offices, mobile phones, video conferencing, teleconferencing are all breaking the barriers of different time zones, distance, paperwork etc....
SarinaO, Malaysia

Materialistic items obtained through out one's working life can trap you to a well paid industry even if the job is not fulfilling in itself
Peter Green, Norway
Working as a contractor in the oil and gas industry in Norway, can be terribly demanding. Generally we work a minimum of 50 hours a week, which I know is detrimental to my health both body and soul. You're hired basically because the clients know you are stationed away from your family and therefore willing to work longer hours than the locals. But it is a destructive way to lead your life. It's difficult to establish any kind of sensible form of lifestyle at home because you are away all the time. Lisa from Belgium is right in saying that reflection of one's life on one's death bed should entail all the delights of a life of quality, rather than how many hours you put in on the projects. Materialistic items obtained through out one's working life can trap you to a well paid industry even if the job is not fulfilling in itself, forcing you to follow the work wherever it may be. I think the solution is to sell everything off giving you the possibility to afford to perhaps re-educate yourself and find a job that's is less demanding and gives better satisfaction.
Peter Green, Norway

There are more consequences to work than financial reward or job satisfaction. For many people work provides experience, education and training. This in turn provides the opportunity to progress up the career ladder in that area of work or in that profession. In the UK and other Western countries it is expected that young people will establish themselves and begin to make a mark in their chosen career in their 20's and early 30's. These are the very years too when young people are thinking of , or starting to have families of their own, with the extra responsibilities that brings. Women are most affected by these responsibilities. It is therefore important that organisations provide a work structure to allow able young women to progress along their career pathway so that in due course they can take their place as equals in the workplace. Without this provision there will always be a serious risk that women will not progress to positions of influence: and the organisation will risk losing well trained and potentially able talent.
Dr.Ilfra Goldberg, UK

It used to be that 99% of the working population worked Monday to Friday. Everyone looked forward to the good old Kiwi weekend. Saturday mornings saw hoards of parents out to watch their kids play sport. In the afternoon the roles were reversed - the parents' played the games (often eluded by talent they once possessed) and the kids watched from the sidelines. Sundays you put your feet up and socialised with friends and family. Nowadays the working week includes Saturday and Sunday. The erosion of the Kiwi weekend has directly led to the demise of sporting and cultural activities in every community in New Zealand. People feel they can no longer afford the time. These recreational activites provided direction in alot of lives. Without this direction people now just drift through life. Give us back our weekends.
Stuart, New Zealand

Work has taken over from the close knit societies we all lived in, that's why some people love long hours. I on the other hand have a life and say Vive La France.
Gerry, Scotland

Oh isn't it sad!! Maybe we should all book in for some post traumatic stress counselling to help us over yet another stressful week at work. What ever happened to personal choice? If you want to work long hours then do so. If you do not, then don't. Just make sure it isn't forced on you against your will.
Eric Alter, UK

I work just enough to be comfortably or fairly well off, and my family consists of just me and my wife. But there's a lot of tension in my life from the competing demands of the BBC World Service and the seven cats we have around the house. Managing all the housework, listening to the BBC World Service all the time through tons of static, interfering stations and weak signals, and keeping track of the cats, their feeds and their movements, is killing me. And now there's the Internet too, all of which has reduced me to an insomniac!

Anand Doraswami

Families are so broken up in the west that people would dislike working for less hours because they don't really know how to spend that extra time.
Goutam Chadalavada, USA
Families are so broken up in the west that people would dislike working for less hours because they don't really know how to spend that extra time. Most westerners stay out of depression consoling themselves that they are working...don't take that antidepressant away from them!
Goutam Chadalavada, USA

The new regulation in France will make the French worker less competitive in the world labor market, making the French economy stagnate further.
David Rand, USA

The world is changing faster than ever in the last couple of decades, and people are competing for jobs. Without keeping up with technology workers become obsolete. What was innovative 5 years ago is now primitive.
Also, people become more materialistic as products of innovation are introduced. More money is needed to sustain status; who's got the newest car, big screen TVs etc. Although not my cup of tea, I think that working too hard for whatever reason is a matter of choice and should not be restricted. After all, excellence is achieved by diligence and competition.
Shay, Israel/USA

I guess a lot of people work VERY long hours out of their passion for work. When you love your work [and your job!] I guess the hours that you put in are actually nothing as compared to the exhilaration of getting the work done - perfectly. I hope a lot of people who work more than a 100 hours like I do appreciate and understand this sentiment.
Vinay Menon, India

I work hard, because I want to learn more and master the field in which I work. If I work hard, two years on a particular field I'll be master in that field rest of my life.
Manian, USA

The gamblers who bet on companies also dictate what odds the will get for their bet. The result - costs have to reduce so the same or more work has to be done by those who remain. Socially this situation is a complete nonsense.
Companies have to accept that in the 21st century their responsibilities are social and not to feather shareholders nests. Job sharing, shorter working hours can provide employment for many more than are currently working.
Alan Gibson, Wales

Our work practices in the UK are insane. We are burning everyone with any talent and skills out, 40 hours a week and some of the lowest pay in the western world, relative to revenue. Americans are pay so much more to do the same job, often for fewer hours, less taxes and more rights. The UK is also one of the most expensive places on the planet to be an employer. No wonder we are increasing becoming a runt little island devoid of all charm.
R. Whittle,

I live and work in France, but I don't work a 35 hour week (more like 42). For degree-level employees (cadres) companies can choose between imposing a 35 hour week or working a maximum of 217 days a year. Where I work they have chosen the latter so we get about 7.5 weeks of holiday a year.
Edwin Tudsbery, France

The issue is whether employers should be allowed to force people to work for 40 hours. If you "want" to work, no one is stopping you.
Emre Domanic, Turkey
The people who say they "want" to work are mistaken about the issue here. The issue is whether employers should be allowed to force people to work for 40 hours. If you "want" to work, no one is stopping you. Just put in overtime. But also realise that there are other people who want to have legal protection against wage-slavery... We spend much of our time producing unnecessary things and services. Then we try very hard to sell them to an unwilling public via aggressive advertisement. I do not see who really benefits from this except a tiny class of managers and capitalists. This is not how the world has to be. It only takes imagination and good-will to change the world... Thank you France!
Emre Domanic, Turkey

I am an A-level student and I never worked until grade 12, but now I'm in grade 13. Now, as soon as I come home from school I work till 12 am and sometimes I sleep for an hour and compensate by sleeping at 1 or 2 am. My teachers complain, saying that 'a human brain functions better if there is both pleasure and work', not just work. I have not taken their advice so far...if I slack - I lose. Because of this I hardly ever see my family now and it is usually them doing things together. I think I work too hard but there is this fear of failure which everyone must have, never mind if it is not productive.
Selena, Hong Kong

We definitely work too many hours. I hate to say this but, bosses take the proverbial micky out of their employees. What's worse is that the results of all this overworking are disproportionately if ever shared. People who employ you are rarely fare!
Mr N, UK

I definitely agree that there is too much pressure in the workplace to do long hours (although bear in mind that if people don't mind not getting promoted they don't have to work so hard). But all the comments saying we can wipe out unemployment by limiting the working week is absolute rubbish. There are over 100,000 job vacancies currently, but just not the people with the skills or desire to do them. Because of the current state of the economy, anyone with relevant skills can make a good amount of money so will probably be in a job already, so limiting the working week would leave many companies with huge skills shortages that would take years to recover from.
Stefan Rennick Egglestone, England

The day competition ceases to exist will be the day we begin to work less hours. In other words, you can forget it!
Charles Zerafa, United Kingdom

The French are right in legislating a 35 hours per week. Money isn't everything. Money can't buy happiness as most assume.
Eskinder, Ethiopia/USA
The French are right in legislating a 35 hours per week. Money isn't everything. Money can't buy happiness as most assume. It is just the means to an end. Most people who live in the most developed nations including the US and UK, spend less with their families, have less leisure times and less happiness and in the end much less quality of life. I have to say that, France is the leader in quality of life. They have good food, good wine, good art & culture, good family values, less violence and crime and are more pleasure seekers than the rest of us. After all, people come in this world to LIVE and to HAVE LIFE and not to work to death or be enslaved for material gains.
Eskinder, Ethiopia/USA

To A.J. in the U.K - maybe if you didn't skip out of work early your co-worker wouldn't have to work so hard. Some people take great pride in and gain personal self-respect, by doing the best job possible. To others: if you do not like your job and feel like you are worked too much, quit. Good workers who are mistreated will follow your example, your employer will notice that his work force has degraded and will offer better treatment to employees to stay competitive and attract good employees.
Corie Stekelenburg, USA

What most big-wigs conveniently forget is that it was their sub-ordinates who helped them attain their 'superiority'.
Peter Crawford-Bolton, UK in US
If you ponder on the definition of work for a minute, it is easy to see that any work you do for a selfless cause elates your spirit and mind. While working for a living most people think that they are forced to do the work. This thought repeated daily drags a person down mentally and causes inefficiency. The reasons and beliefs you base your work on have a lot to do with the amount of stress you feel. If one has a noble cause for work, long or short hours do not matter because it is a choice one likes. So one can be happy, you know!
Nanda, USA

Nice one Paul Hicks! We don't "need" to work huge numbers of hours. Plenty of people don't (I've got a good job, good money and I don't). But I'll be damned before I take any notice of legislation that restricts my right to work whatever hours I feel are necessary in the circumstances. I've done the odd 90 hour week in the past. I expect I'll do some in the future. It'll be my choice if I do. So why can't the whingers talk to management (they are human).
Keith, UK

I would like to stop work now and go home. I am not paid for all these extra hours. But if I don't finish my work today I won't have one to do tomorrow.
Anton, Australia
Working long hours without fulfilling your family and religious obligations is producing a lot of selfish and spiritually dead people in these modern times. That is a major reason for family break-ups, materialism and social disharmony in the West and United States. Just like a minimum wage requirement, every human should work at least 35 hours a week. More jobs would thus be available for others, resulting in better economy and a better society. We should follow France in reducing our working hours.
Shahid Parvez, USA

I think some people are incapable of enjoying time that is unstructured. Maybe it's an obsessive/compulsive thing. People like this are better off working all the time so they do not have to face their demons. I live and work in Silicon Valley and am surrounded by people who work all the time. The more people work, the more money they have, the more real estate and products can cost, the more they have to work to buy the stuff and services that make their limited free time enjoyable. I think it's a cultural tic-tac-toe style logic loop for tail chasers.
Chris W, USA

No-one should be forced to work more than 40 hours a week if they don't want to. And no one should be prevented from working more than 40 hours if they wish to do so. Socialists, take note.
Ed Bayley, USA (English)

The problem with us British is we don't work smart, just bloody hard.
Vernon Hunte, England
I have recently left my most recent employment and enjoying a short break before starting in a new position. Previously I was working an average 11 hour day, five days a week and also putting in time most weekends to keep on top of my workload. What is frustrating is to see that my previous employers have recruited two people to do the job that I was doing and providing the required results by sheer hard work. One of the key reasons for leaving my previous position was the lack of management support and an unwillingness to allow any flexibility in management controls and reporting procedure to allow me to work more effectively.
Nick Ridout, England

Until recently, humans worked seven days a week, 18 hours a day, just for shelter and food. Here in Mexico City there are tens of thousands of people selling trinkets on the street from sunrise to sunset, just to pay for rice and beans. The yuppies of Silicon Valley and the City of London who complain about working too hard are the most privileged people on earth. A stressful life is wondering how to keep your children alive, not worrying about whether there will be time for a ski trip this year.
Paul, Mexico

I work hard because I have a goal to achieve: to establish my own business. I think if you have an idea in your mind, an aim in your life you are going to do everything possible to fulfil it.
Ellen Valley, UK

Without employees there is no company, we are the ones who keep the wheels turning and the fat cats rich. People should remember that people power does work. Stop being "yes people" and start standing up for yourselves. Remember that if you all stick together they cannot touch you and do not be scared, they need us just as much as we need them. Stand up for yourselves!
Jaz, England

Wow! What is it that you all do that you need more than 40 hours a week to accomplish it?
Patrick Ian Turner, USA/UK
Working long hours is not ideal for an individual but is a matter of choice and not a matter for governments Where companies are putting pressure on employees to work longer hours than stipulated in their terms of contract then this is solvable. Where an employee knowingly goes into a long hour's job and then balks at the commitment it's a case of tough luck Vote with your feet and leave! For god's sake lets not look to France for our model of labour laws, they have all but squeezed out the entrepreneur with all their nonsense, I should know, I have business interests in Paris and the red tape involved in starting and running a business is ridiculous.
Raffles, England

Why are so many of you so keen to work 60 and 70 hours a week? Have you nothing else to do with your life?
Joe, England

Working long hours is part of the American Romance. We're obsessed over here with the notion that long hours are intrinsically meaningful. In reality, much American work time is wasteful: meetings which don't cover main points quickly and efficiently; chit-chat with co-workers about non-work issues; tasks which are ultimately unhelpful or even counterproductive to the project at hand (but which eat up hours of time); and so on. Most people think that if one makes the sacrifice of one's time, then automatically one is valuable, important, doing the right thing, an asset, etc. Nonsense! Work smart and efficiently, don't cut corners, and get on with the business of life - which is life!
David Kleist, USA

In reply to Berts comments - if you find that you have to work such long hours to get "the job done", then your boss is not doing his/her job! You should only be given the amount of work you can do well. If you are over worked and tired then you are not working at the mystical 100%. A boss should get out of you 100% every day, more than that is just as bad as less. You are as important as his/her car and you wouldn't get them running around at 100mph in first gear, or not taking it for a service.
Tony, UK

A friend just told me about an engagement party he threw for his friend who never showed up. He was working. What does that tell you?

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Sorry, I fell asleep at my keyboard.
Bert, UK
This is a global issue, not just one in Europe and America. Despite the assertions by some people I feel that in order to do a good job, and remain competitive you will end up doing more than 40 hours of work in a week. It simply doesn't add up - if I worked only 40 hours per week, I would be better rested, but I would NEVER meet my deadlines and consequently my value as an employee to my company would be less. I agree that it should not be mandatory, but don't punish those who would seek to advance their career by working a little longer. In the end I think it is a personal choice, not one that should be legislated so there is a maximum work week - this I feel is unfair on those who are willing to sacrifice a little time for themselves at home to do a better job at work.
Ross B, New Zealand

What a ridiculous idea! Only a Communist country would dictate to people as too how long they can or cannot work. Its another attempt by Left-wing socialists to prevent people from making a successful living, and yet we are more worried about the far-right movement in Austria!
Richard, Wales

In the area where I live, people sometimes complain about working long hours, yet they insist on driving new, expensive SUVs, talking on their mobile phones wherever they are, living in very large, new homes, and vacationing in Cancun, Mexico every January. They can't have it both ways: either they work less or they pay for all the extras. It seems to me that they vote with their actions, and prefer to work long hours. And yeah, they DO have a choice.
David Reiff, USA

I think the work week should be reduced to zero hours, and all our work done for us by robots.
C M Sanyk, USA
I think the work week should be reduced to zero hours, and all our work done for us by robots who meet all of our immediate needs, leaving the remaining time for leisure activities, intellectual pursuits, and time to rediscover ourselves and develop meaningful relationships with other people. This is the 21st century after all.
C M Sanyk, USA

Managers, especially in the USA, have very poor people skills, and do not understand that without their staff, the company is nothing. The law should protect the rights of employees to say NO to long hours.
John Atkins, Singapore

I don't think that people work too hard. If anything, I have seen a decline in the work ethic as people work less hard, take more breaks, find more creative excuses to miss work. The forty hour work week is fairly light in terms of work loads. My great- grandparents often worked 80 or 90 hours a week and no-one complained about too much work in those days.
Jeff, USA

Working long hours should not be a problem, as long as you enjoy what you are doing.
Rajeev, USA
A major problem is that many salaried workers get paid for "40 hours" of work and there's no authorisation for overtime. Employers have every incentive to pressure workers into working 60-80 hours per week since there's no apparent cost. What tools are used to convince employees to do this? The threat of being laid off or of being past over for promotion in favour of someone who will. This problem needs to be dealt with head on. If you read the laws here in California, what's happening is illegal. But it's not enforced.
Brien Alkire, USA

Whether I work 35 hours a week or 60 hours a week, I want to be the one making that choice.
Deborah Rand, USA

At 46 I think nothing of putting in a 60 hour week (plus 4 hours a day commute). But this is New York and it's the name of the game if you want to get ahead. The goal, of course, is to get enough money and then get just out ... before it kills you!
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

Government, "hands off." People want more freedom outside of work, but won't have the government decide how many hours you can or can not work, just takes away your freedom. People have choices now. You can always work as many hours as you want, you just have to decide on your priorities.
Helen Glover, USA

Despite a smaller labour force, higher unemployment and a shorter working week, the French economy still out produces the British one (in the aggregate, and on a per-capita basis). Unemployment in France is far too high, and this is a significant problem. Nevertheless, if 100 French workers working 35-hour weeks produce more than 113 British workers working 45-hour weeks, the French are clearly doing something right.
Tom, USA

In my view you couldn't pay meme enough for my spare time and I refuse to work on weekends, I think a lot of people would be wise to adopt the same. Working habits are taking there toll on families and discouraging young people from getting out on their own. Should we cut the working week short? Of course - it should be 4 days on 3 off to be even remotely fair to employees. But until the working force realises just how much they are enslaved stress will remain the number 1 killer. Work yourself to death...doesn't sound very appealing to me.
Brandon, New Zealand

Yes we do work too many hours and yes it does have a bad effect on our personal and family life. But do our employers care less if we say this on the BBC Talking Point? NO. So we'll have to find some other way of passing on the message.
Ian, UK

Just look at the call centres to see how despairing workers have become with the advent of information technology. These new 'satanic mills' are forcing people to work longer and harder. There have been cases where call centre workers have had to make up time even when they have been off sick. This just an example of the bright brave world all of us will have to face.
Malcolm McCandless, Dundee

Study after study finds that working more than 40 to 45 hours each week results in LOWER productivity and more mistakes.
Colin, USA
Study after study finds that working more than 40 to 45 hours each week results in LOWER productivity and more mistakes. Here in the US we routinely work 60 or more hours each week in non-unionised jobs. The losses in productivity and morale are enormous. The personal costs are beyond counting.
Colin, USA

I do believe that in the UK a lot of people are working too hard. My New Year's Resolution has been to cut down my hours as I was working from 9.00 a.m until around 8.00 p.m. My role is a Sales Administrator for a world-wide electronics company. I think that life outside work and more specifically family and friends needs to be a greater part of all our lives. I think the problem is a particularly acute in the South East of England where the rat race is at its worst.
Carole Dennis, UK

I read through the comments of people who claim to work long hours and think, "I wish". 60 hours per week before travelling is the baseline for most people I know. For instance last week was 87 hours plus 52 hours intercontinental travel. The sad thing is I enjoy it!
Alex Marshall, England

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

Take part in our LIVE multimedia phone-in programme. Call 44 171 379 7444 from 12:00GMT on Sundays.

Does it ever work? Tell us your experiences.

See also:
26 Aug 99 |  The Economy
Working hours changes condemned
29 Jan 00 |  Sci/Tech
PC rage hits UK
07 Nov 99 |  Talking Point On Air
Should holidays be a human right?

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

More Talking Point debates
Should the hijackers be given asylum?
Can the internet ever be secure?
Should Israel pull out of Lebanon?
Haider: Is Europe over-reacting?
Is Africa ready to host the World Cup?
Do we give enough to charity?
Are mobile phones a rip-off?
Survival of the happiest?
Does the Dome need some Disney magic?
Once a Villain, always a villain?
Are police too soft on hard drugs?

Links to other Talking Point stories