We Americans, ‘Live To Work’

I remember reading a novel about Spain, and even though, it was fiction, there was a quote in it that made me stop and think. It went something like this. In Spain, ‘we work to live, we do not live to work’. In my opinion, that quote spoke volumes and is the exact opposite of what we do here in America. We ‘live to work’. We work so many hours and spend so much time either heading to or from our jobs that we barely have time to actually ‘learn to live’. And do we really have a choice? Some would say that no, we do not. Either we work or we’re unemployed and homeless. It is that simple. Has it always been this way?

I do not need statistical data to show me what I already know. Yes, we Americans are the most unhealthy people on the planet. We are the most stressed. We have much higher incidences of heart attacks and heart related medical issues than other industrialized nations. But, hey! Don’t just take MY word for it.

Americans are working 60 hours a week as opposed to the 40 hours per week that they are supposed to. You can blame it all to the Increasingly Connected world, Competition and Economic downturn. While longer working hours may boost productivity it may do more harm than good in achieving end results.

The 60 hours of work per week is coming at the expense of health, happiness, and even productivity of Employees.

Americans are literally working themselves to death. America is the most overworked nation in the developed world and Americans have become hostage to their jobs that has made their work-life balance unattainable.

President Franklin Roosevelt in 1937 signed into law the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as part of his New Deal agenda, establishing the five-day, 40-hour maximum workweek. The unions pushed it, and business leaders went along with it, since the research conducted in the five decades before that consistently found that 8-hour work days and 40-hour work weeks kept workers productive, safe, healthy, and efficient over a long period of time.

The 40-hour workweek, however, has slowly become a thing of past. More people in the middle-income bracket, as well as those in managerial positions are working longer hours.

In the 1970’s, 34% of men in professional-managerial positions worked 50-hours or more per week. Today that number has increased to 38%. As far as middle-income male workers are concerned, 21% worked more than 50-hours per week in the 1970’s, whereas today they account for 23% . With professional women, only 6% worked 50-hours or more per week in the 1970’s, whereas this figure has since more than doubled.

Add to that, we’re not even in the top five of the ‘happiest countries’. I’m shocked! Shocked, I say! I hope you noticed the heavy sarcasm regarding being ‘shocked’ over this. So, is it any wonder that we’re heart attack and stroke prone? Is it any wonder that a great number of Americans are obese? When we ‘grab and go’, which usually means ‘fast food’. What did we expect?

The really sad part is that I believe many of us feel that we have no choice. The mortgage/rent will not pay for itself. The electric company, gas and water utility companies do not care about how many hours we’re having to work to pay for their services. Our employers obviously do not care about our health. If they did, we wouldn’t be working so many hours. It is unfortunate that we seem to be going back in time. I thought that the reasons why unions were formed was because of untenable working conditions. Greedy bosses were partly to blame for the start of unions because they were formed to protect workers from employers/companies that exploited their workers. Unions were instrumental in helping to establish fair wages and safe working conditions. However, decades ago, unions started to get a bad rap and were linked with ‘organized crime’. Yes, we’ve all heard that ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’, but something does need to change. We cannot afford to take this country back to the days before there were laws put in place to stop people from literally being worked to death. Unfortunately, we are already at that place now. And so I ask, what are we gonna do about it? ‘Work’ on a solution or just beat the ‘unions’ aren’t the answer drum’? Because the alternative is ‘being worked to death’. Which scenario describes your working situation, ‘work to live’ or ‘live to work’ and if you ‘live to work’ do you feel as though you have a choice?

6 thoughts on “We Americans, ‘Live To Work’

  1. It wouldn’t hurt some Americans to stop and smell the roses.

    We’ve created our own schedules, so we have the power to make the most of our time.


    1. Teresa, I think that is part of the problem. We work so much and are simply too busy to even realize that ‘roses’ exist until Valentine’s Day when the expected flowers show up on our job. It is a pity that we’re too busy to just ‘live’ and it seems that we feel we have no choice. Sad, really…


    1. Thank you for stopping in and yes, Alice, you are SO right! We saw this coming and we did not raise a hue and cry. We simply went along with the program. And now, it has been accepted as the status quo. Now that the corporations have the upper hand with so many unemployed and starving, those who are employed feel as though they are not in a position to say, “no!,” when their employer demands they work until they drop, get up and continue. Like I pointed out in this essay, it was not always this way, but we let this happen and now we are dealing with the consequences for relinquishing without a whimper, our right to decent wages and decent working conditions. Many people do not even feel right in taking a vacation because they are shamed as though they’re doing something wrong or they are afraid that their job will not be there when they return from vacation. This is pitiful and ridiculous that we have allowed the situation to get this far out of hand. Sigh…!! I despair of us!

      Again, thank you for your comment!


  2. Now hold it! How can Tubularsock buy and stack up all this plastic shit from the slave laborers from China if I don’t work from dawn to dusk? Do you think my GMO turkey comes free?


    Of course the people in Spain have this odd view about work ……… they don’t speak English!

    As Tubularsock has alway said: “The only thing wrong with Americans are Americans!”


    1. Tube, Damn it man! Listen to yourself! How the hell can you ENJOY all your plastic shit if you’re laboring from dawn to dusk? What’ the point? Come sit here next to me underneath this here bridge. I’ve found a great Wi-Fi hotspot and if you promise not to snore, I’ll even show you how to capture and skin a squirrel for dinner!

      “Yo no hablo ingles.” is why the people of Spain have it much better than we do, eh? I’ll buy that! Oops! No, I am not buying anything! Ba humbug! I refuse to contribute to the corporate bottom line.

      And yes, we ‘Americans’ are our own worst enemy and we seem to never get tired of making it so!


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