Working 70 hours per week is certainly not for everyone. It requires incredible dedication, stamina, and often sacrifice. For some high-powered professionals like doctors, lawyers, and executives, 70 hour work weeks may be common. Others may work these extreme hours for a period of time to meet intense deadlines or work on passion projects. But putting in 70 hours of work each week can take its toll, and it’s important to have open eyes about what such an undertaking really entails.
What are the hours in a 70 hour work week?
To understand what a 70 hour workweek looks like, it helps to break it down hour by hour. Assuming a person works 5 days per week, 70 hours spread over a 5 day workweek equals 14 hours per day. Here’s what that might look like on a daily basis:
- 6:00 am – Wake up, get ready for the day
- 7:00 am – Arrive at the office
- 7:00 am – 12:00 pm – Work
- 12:00 – 1:00 pm – Lunch break
- 1:00 pm – 7:00 pm – Work
- 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm – Commute home
- 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm – Eat dinner, work more from home
- 11:00 pm – Sleep and start over
As this schedule indicates, a 70 hour workweek leaves little time for anything besides work, commuting, and the bare minimum daily tasks like eating and sleeping.
What are the impacts on work quality and productivity?
At first, it may seem obvious that working 70 hours would result in getting more done. But in reality, research shows that productivity starts to decline sharply after 50 hours in a workweek. Fatigue sets in, mental sharpness decreases, and workers make more mistakes. Quality of work goes down even as time at work goes up.
In addition, working such long hours frequently leads to burnout. Employees get exhausted, frustrated, and disengaged. They may then put in less effort or even leave their jobs altogether. Companies with cultures of excessive work hours often find themselves with high turnover.
That’s why many labor experts say that overtime beyond 50 hours rarely benefits either the individual or the organization in the long-run.
Impacts on physical health
Working 70 hours per week leaves little time for exercise, balanced meals, and sleep. Headaches, eye strain, muscle soreness, and fatigue are common physical symptoms.
Over many years, the chronic stress of this level of work can increase risks for long-term health issues like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and weakened immune systems.
Impacts on mental health
Just as taxing is the impact on mental health. With no time to relax or recharge, anxiety, irritability, and feelings of burnout are common.
Relationships both at work and outside work suffer from the lack of time. Social networks shrink over time, leading to loneliness and isolation.
The risk of depression is high. The constant pressure and lack of control over one’s schedule undermines mental health and well-being.
What does a typical day eating on a 70 hour work week look like?
Finding time for regular nutritious meals is very difficult with 70 hour work weeks. Here’s what a typical day might involve:
- Breakfast – Grab a quick high-protein breakfast like yogurt, fruit, and granola on the way to work. Easy to eat in the car or at your desk.
- Lunch – A quick 30 minute lunch break means choosing something simple and fast. Maybe picking up a salad or sandwich to bring back to your desk.
- Dinner – Takeout or delivery is a common option. Without time to shop and cook, meals often come from restaurants or prepared meal services.
- Snacks – Keeping protein bars, nuts, fruit, or other convenient snacks stocked up is essential for getting through long workdays.
As this shows, survival mode on these hours means relying on a lot of pre-made or on-the-go options. Sitting down for a full meal is a rare luxury, and healthy home cooked meals are nearly impossible with only 6 hours a day not devoted to work or commuting.
How does a 70 hour work week impact your social and family life?
Working 70 hours each week means social and family life inevitably suffer. With just 6 non-work hours a day to sleep, eat, run errands, and take care of personal needs, there is little if any time left for relationships.
Impacts on friendships
Time spent catching up with friends, going to restaurants or events, taking weekends away together – these important social connections fall by the wayside. Friendships become more distant and strained when you have to decline invitations and can’t make time to invest in those relationships.
Impacts on romance and dating
Trying to cultivate a new romance is extremely difficult with these hours. No time for dating or even a quick drink after work means dating life is essentially non-existent. Even established relationships suffer from the absence of quality time to connect with a significant other.
Impacts on family
For those with children or other family obligations, a 70-hour workweek takes an immense toll. Little daily family time means kids often go days without seeing their parent. One partner shoulders the majority of child-rearing and household burdens. Important events and milestones are missed. The strain damages the quality of family relationships.
What are some strategies for maintaining work-life balance at 70 hour work weeks?
While very difficult, there are some strategies that can help slightly reduce the impact on mental health, relationships, and quality of life:
Be intentional about communication
Make an effort to communicate and stay connected with important people in your life. Check in frequently by phone, text, email etc. Let people know you care even if you can’t be there.
Schedule occasional breaks
Take a full weekend day off once a month or every few months. Use that time to focus on recharging and spending time with neglected relationships.
Outsource and delegate
Pay for help – laundry service, grocery delivery, house cleaning etc. – to gain back any time you can. Delegate tasks at work as much as possible.
Make small rules to protect time for your mental health – like no work emails after 8pm or no working after dinner at home. Even little boundaries provide relief.
Involve family where possible
Invite loved ones to join you for meals at the office cafeteria. Have your child do homework at your office after school before commuting home together. Blend work and personal life a bit.
Make time for self care
Carve out small windows for exercise, meditation, enjoying a hobby – anything that relieves stress and makes you feel more human. Even 10-15 minutes helps.
How common are 70+ hour work weeks? Statistics by profession
While not the norm for most full-time jobs, 70+ hour work weeks are fairly common among certain professions. Here are average hours worked statistics for some careers where lengthy work weeks are most prevalent:
|Average Hours Worked Per Week
These statistics demonstrate which occupations are more likely to regularly exceed 40+ hours each week and require sacrifices of personal time for their careers.
What are the pros/cons of working 70 hour work weeks?
- Increased income from overtime hours
- Ability to take on more projects and tasks
- Chance to learn more skills quickly
- Opportunity for fast promotion if you stand out
- Gain deeper expertise in a shorter period of time
- Impressive on a resume if it’s a high status position
- More stimulating for those who thrive under pressure
- Damage to physical health and mental wellbeing
- Higher chance of burnout
- Lack of balance between work and other life roles
- Missing out on life outside of work – family, friends, hobbies etc.
- Lower productivity and work quality
- Higher turnover if employees burn out
- Damages work culture and morale
Ultimately there are occasional situations where the pros may outweigh the cons for a short period of intense work. But regularly working 70+ hours is unsustainable and damaging for most people over the long haul.
Who is most at risk from consistent 70+ hour work weeks?
While no one is completely immune to the stresses of 70+ hour work weeks, certain groups tend to suffer the most consequences:
- Parents – Especially exhausting for working moms and dads trying to balance children and family duties
- People with health conditions – Difficult to manage chronic illnesses without time for self-care
- Younger workers – Lack of experience managing workload and boundaries
- Recent college grads – Eager to prove themselves in a new career
- Low income workers – Financially strained so they lack choice to work less
- Population groups prone to overwork culture – e.g. Japan, South Korea
Those whose personal responsibilities or financial constraints make it harder to draw clear boundaries around work hours have the highest chance of burnout and mental health impacts.
What are some alternatives to 70 hour work weeks?
While there are some professions and situations where 70+ hours may be required temporarily, regularly expecting these extreme hours is detrimental. Some healthier alternatives include:
- **Flexible scheduling** – Allow employees some control over their hours
- **Remote work** – Provides flexibility and eliminates commute times
- **Shift rotations** – Rotate the highest pressure on-site shifts among staff
- **Improved hiring** – Hire enough staff and reduce unreasonable workloads
- **Shift limits** – Cap weekly hours at 50 or 55
- **Wellness incentives** – Provide compensation for vacation, self-care etc.
The most sustainable companies recognize that moderate work hours actually produce better long-term results. Supporting employees to work intensely and rest deeply breeds loyalty, health, and increased tenure.
Working 70 hour weeks for years on end is a recipe for burnout. While reasonable in the short-term during extreme deadlines, this level of work is unsustainable. The costs to mental health, physical health, relationships, and quality of life are immense.
Both employees and employers should be aware of these realities. Workers should feel empowered to draw boundaries around excessive hours. And organizations must realize that their best work comes from a balanced, healthy, engaged workforce. Moderation and rest are as important as sheer effort and time expenditure.
With some reasonable limits and flexibility on both sides, it’s possible to get important work done without requiring these excessive hours week after week. The ultimate goal is to work hard, rest well, and live fully.