More Americans work weekends, survey shows

Our wired culture and a shift toward a service-oriented labor force explains the trend.

Dayton business owner Tom Maher responds each day to more than 20 work-related email messages outside of traditional office hours, reflecting a growing number of Americans who are cutting back on their leisure time to get work done on the weekends.

More than 35 percent of employed Americans work on an average weekend day, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2010 American Time Use Survey. That figure, up from 34 percent in 2008, includes people whose jobs are typically performed on weekends, as well as those who usually work on weekdays but spent time working on the weekend, the survey said.

In comparison, 82 percent of employed people work on an average weekday, down from 83 percent in 2008.

The annual survey is drawn from interviews with 13,200 people over age 15.

“If my business is typical of others, everybody is working every weekend, even though no one is physically in the office,” said Maher, franchise owner of Manpower of Dayton, an employment services organization.

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Maher said he stays connected to his office via smartphone, which allows him to communicate, make appointments and access computer databases at any time from anywhere in the world. “It’s just part of business today,” he said.

The trend of more people working on weekends stems from the shift away from manufacturing and toward a service-oriented labor force, said Thomas Traynor, a Wright State University economics professor.

“People might prefer to work the traditional Monday through Friday work week, but it just might be a shift in the kinds of jobs that are available,” Traynor said.

For example, the booming health care industry “is using a lot more labor and a lot of that labor works seven days a week,” he said.

Many other Americans work weekends, “although we don’t always recognize it,” said John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a Chicago-based outplacement consulting organization. They include people working in the police, public service, media, information technology, retail and restaurant fields, he said.

Some traditional weekday workers may be putting in extra hours on weekends because of the economy’s slow recovery from the recession, Challenger said.

The 9.2 percent unemployment rate “means that there are a lot of people who would like our jobs, who are going to companies and saying, ‘I’m going to work long, hard hours and be really dedicated,’ ” Challenger said.

“So I think there is a feeling that our jobs are just a little more precarious today,” he said.

Technology and globalization, with people communicating via laptop computers and mobile phones from different time zones around the world, has turned many people into 24-7 workers, officials said.

“The days when there was a clear boundary between work and home, or working lives and personal lives, has long disappeared,” Challenger said.

Maher said checking business email on nights and weekends is not expected of many workers, depending on their position with an organizations.

However, doing so increases productivity, he said.

“As the owner of a business, when I walk in the door each morning I know exactly what’s going on because I’ve kept up with it ever since I walked out the door the previous afternoon,” Maher said.

“So there are no surprises, and I like that a lot.”

The labor bureau’s survey on work-life changes also found that women worked more hours overall than they did two years ago, especially on weekends.

Challenger said that many more men than women lost their jobs during the recession because some of its hardest hit areas — manufacturing, construction and finance — were more male-oriented. That forced some women in dual-income couples to step into a bread-winner role.

The survey also found that 51 percent of people with multiple jobs were likely to work on an average weekend day, compared with 34 percent of people with just one job.

The desire for two jobs is typically related to the lack of satisfactory income from a primary job, Traynor said.

“If people are already working Monday through Friday, of course their main available days to pick up some extra hours are going to be on the weekends,” he said.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2419 or dlarsen@DaytonDaily News.com.

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