Working norms are constantly changing over time. While the average worker today works 40 hours a week, a more typical work week in the Pre-Industral Revolution was a 96-hour work week.
A lot has changed since then, including productivity, technological advancement, the incorporation of women in the workforce, and globalization. While we work much less than we used to, we’re still far away from a leisurely life divorced from work as a central source of meaning.
The United States is in a unique position in the world because wealthier and more productive societies tend to work less. However, when you compare the United States to other modern developed countries, Americans work significantly more hours, take less vacation time, and receive fewer paid days off. As a result, Americans work an average of 258 hours more than their European counterparts. You might be wondering then, how many work hours and days are in a year? We're here to help you figure that out.
The National Average
On average, the full-time American employee works 8 hours a day, five days a week, accumulating 40 working hours per week. There are 52 weeks in a year, which would total 2080 working hours a year and 260 work days a year.
However, that’s only if you never took any sick days, went on vacation, had a family emergency, and had public holidays never cut into your work week. Of course, that’s seldom the case, so to get a truly accurate number of your hours worked, you need to calculate the number of days you have had off.
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Workdays & Work Hours for 2023
For 2023, there are a total of 260 days and 2080 hours in the work year.
|Month||# of Work Days||# of Work Hours|
|January||22 days||176 hours|
|February||20 days||160 hours|
|March||23 days||184 hours|
|April||20 days||160 hours|
|May||23 days||184 hours|
|June||22 days||176 hours|
|July||21 days||168 hours|
|August||23 days||184 hours|
|September||21 days||168 hours|
|October||22 days||176 hours|
|November||22 days||176 hours|
|December||21 days||168 hours|
|Total||260 days||2080 hours|
How to Calculate How Many Hours You Work
To calculate the number of hours you work, you’ll want to multiply the number of hours you work each day by the number of days you work in a week. This gives you a weekly figure. Then, multiply that number by 52 weeks to calculate how much you work in a year.
Let’s say you had fourteen days off in the entire year due to public holidays and vacation time. Multiply the number of days off by the hours you would have worked per day to calculate your time off. Then, subtract that number from your earlier calculation, which would have been how much you would work in a year with no days off.
Remember to include the following factors in your non-working hours:
- Public holidays
- Sick days
When it comes to accurately calculating the number of hours and days you work in a year, you need to consider the following:
- The type of work
- Remote or in-person
- Part-time or full time
These factors can impact how many hours a person ends up working on any given day, week, or year.
1. Type of Work
You should consider the type of work you’re engaged in. Are you paid by the hour, or do you receive a salary?
A cashier is likely to work a mandatory set of hours per day, but a freelancer who works on several projects at a time may be paid by project rather than by the hour. Freelancers are one field of work where workers essentially create their own hours.
While your working hours may fluctuate over the year, you can keep track of the hours you work on any given day with the use of a spreadsheet, or you can use an estimate of your daily average.
2. Remote or In-Person
Workers are increasingly working from home rather than needing to go into an office from 9 to 5, five days a week. Whether you work a fully remote position or a hybrid position, working from home can result in a reduction or increase in the number of hours worked.
If working from home increases your productivity, you may be ahead of deadlines and finish your work in less time. However, many remote workers are complaining that their employers are expecting them to be available 24/7 or take on additional work duties without additional pay.
3. Part-Time vs. Full Time
Generally, you need to work fewer than 38 hours a week to be considered a part-time worker. However, hours worked by part-time workers are generally more flexible. Part-timers are usually students, parents of young children, or retirees. If you work inconsistent hours, you should keep track of your hours worked in a spreadsheet so you can determine how many hours you have worked throughout the year.
Where you live can often dictate the type of work culture you’re surrounded by. Europeans, for example, place greater emphasis on a work/life balance than Americans do. The Netherlands works the least in the modern developed world, with an average of a 27.5-hour work week or 1380 hours per year. That’s a stark contrast between the average of 2080 hours per year in the United States.
If you’re lucky enough to work for a company that has recognized that workers increase their output when they have more downtime or if you’re self-employed, then you can afford to work fewer hours without getting less work done.
Problems With the 40 Hour WorkWeek
Though the number of hours we work each day, week, and year have drastically decreased over time, our work hours no longer match up with productivity.
John Maynard Keynes, one of the main proponents of the 8-hour work week, predicted that workers of the future would only need to work 15 hours a week by 2030 as productivity increased.
That hasn’t happened, despite the fact that today’s workforce can perform the same level of productivity in 11 hours of work that required a worker from the ’50s an entire 40-hour work week to do.
The 40-hour work week was first created out of necessity – before the Fair Labor Standards Act, workers in factories, often including women and children, did backbreaking work for 16 hours a day, six days a week, for meager pay.
Factory owners wanted to squeeze as much productivity out of them as possible, leaving most workers with only enough time to work and sleep on most days. This led to workers’ movements, strikes, and riots, where workers demanded better working conditions and pay.
Inventor of Ford automobiles Henry Ford adopted the idea of the 40-hour work week in his own factories because he wanted his workers to be more productive and to have enough time and money to purchase his cars.
We can thank Henry Ford for a lot of things – revolutionizing the automobile industry, increasing worker pay, reducing the work week, and even giving us the weekend. Yes, workers didn’t use to have two consecutive days off, but Ford promoted the idea that workers having leisure time and better pay was better for the economy.
Eighty-five years later, we’re still stuck with the forty-hour work week, despite drastic improvements in economic output, technology, and globalization. As productivity has increased, our hours haven’t decreased as hypothesized.
Studies show that during the average person’s 8-hour work day, they only spend 45% of their day performing their primary job duties. 40% of the time is spent doing administrative tasks, having meetings, or being interrupted. The last 14% was spent simply sending e-mails.
The Future of Work
The COVID-19 pandemic permanently changed the work infrastructure in our society yet again, shifting many jobs previously done in an office environment to remote online work.
As people increasingly work from home, the lines are beginning to blur between work and home life. This is leading to people working even more hours than the typical 40-hour work week that’s enshrined into law.
Even though legally, any work done over 40 hours entitles workers to overtime, the internet has increased accessibility to workers by employers to an extent unprecedented throughout human history. This often leads to working extra hours even when they are “off the clock,” and many workers aren’t being compensated for them.
With the rise of remote work, the 9 to 5 job is becoming less practical. Many workers are self-employed or work in different time zones than their colleagues. In this situation, it’s more practical to operate on a task-oriented work schedule rather than logging hours.
Studies show that countries that moved to a four-day work week rather than five experienced a boost in productivity, improved job satisfaction, increased creativity, were more likely to be on time, and their output was on par with the 40-hour work week.
Even though it’s most typical for full-time workers in the United States to work about 2080 hours per year, it’s posing a lot of challenges to our productivity and freedom.
With the advancement of technology, including the introduction of artificial intelligence, we may be forced to re-evaluate our relationship to work entirely.
Some places around the world have implemented universal basic income (UBI) – a guaranteed minimum standard of living provided by the government. As jobs continue to be automated, displacing human workers, we may find that our relationship with work drastically changes.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.