Open Thread: How Long Is Your Work Week?


FreshBooks president and CEO Mike McDerment muses about the length of his workweek on the FreshBooks blog. Mike says “you need to be refreshed to be effective” and that he feels passionate and productive under his current schedule. Let’s see what Mike’s refreshing and productive schedule looks like:

So how long is my work week these days? I usually get to my desk around 8:00 AM and leave around 7:00 PM. While I sometimes arrive earlier or later, I rarely work past 7:00 PM. I think it is important to have a clear and consistent end to your workday. So, I work about 11 hours per day (55 hours per week). Now, that does not include the .5-1 hour of reading I do (almost always business related) each night (3.5 hours per week). Nor does it include any errands I run after hours (office supplies, sending of documents, etc), nor the inevitable after hours phone call or two (2.5 hours a week there). Every Sunday night I spend about an hour planning my week and frequently (weekends and weeknights) I go for one to two hour walks where I just think about things (4 hours per week). I also spend about 3.5 hours a week on outside projects like mesh.

Then he adds up all those hours to come up with his average weekly hours… and the number’s pretty high!

Mike’s Work Week

55.0 hrs – driving the desk
2.5 hrs – running errands after hours
3.5 hrs – reading and professional development
1.0 hrs – Sunday night prepping my week
4.0 hrs – after hours time dedicated to thinking
3.5 hrs – outside projects
69.5 hrs – THE GRAND TOTAL

Almost 70 hours! But I bet more than a few web workers put in 60 or 70 hour weeks in pursuit of work they love and a paycheck that makes it all worthwhile.

How many hours do you work a week? How does it break down between desk work and thinking work, weekday work and weekend work? Have you found a balance that keeps you passionate and productive?



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I hate to break it to you, but the people who are working as tech workers and CEO’s for 50-60 hour work weeks are probably not the ones with pregnant daughters and delinquent sons. Your arguments ring hollow because the author of this article is a CEO; he really has no employer, and he chooses the work schedule he has. Just because your priorities are different from someone who is more successful than you doesn’t mean that you should look down on him. Despite all your warnings regarding stress, from the looks of your writing style you are the one who is stressed out all the time.


You people are Fkin insane.
40-50 hrs a week is more than enough work time. Commute, reading, and thinking don’t count. All of those things are your own choices of depriving your families of your time with them.
We can’t help thinking about our employment on our own time, as most of our employers keep us too stressed to reason while on the clock.
It wasn’t like this 30- 40 years ago, and you’re accepting it. That’s crap.
Your daughters are winding up pregnant, and your son’s are in juvie, and your wives are filing for divorce, and your wondering what happened. JC when will this country wake up and take charge of their lives.
I’ve been there and found that money isn’t everything. I had always placed my family first, I thought. Although it seemed work always had something it needed from me causing me to let my family down. So I decided to stand up to work. I was demoted and eventually quit. Devastating? No! I was pretty scared at first, but knew I was right. I found new employment with in the criteria and requirements I established for my life. Sure I took a pay cut, but it was worth it. I’m not stressed; I have plenty of time with my family, and can pretty much take a few days off a year without fear.
Man up and take control of your life. The only reason we had for longevity at any job previously was for the seniority. Now day’s seniority is no longer a respected work trait. In reality, now days you can’t even find an employer that will even treat you with respect, they only have expectations. F them. Do what keeps you happy. There will always be another job.
If you happen to be an employer reading this, cats out of the bag, bet you’re pissed. All those years of mental programming shot to hell.

I invite responses. Feel free.


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I always get a chuckle from those that ‘cannot’ understand how someone can work more then 8 hours a day (God forbid 10-14). There are really people that really really do enjoy what they do, don’t believe anyone that says you cannot be paid to do what you love to do or that a hobby does not make a good career cause they either don’t know the passion of a hobby or they really don’t know how to be passionate.

My day:
* I set a minimum of 10 @ the desk and I like to break it up during the day if I can
* typically I can run to 14 hours without any effort at all, ala lose myself in a task
* I sleep 5-6 hours a day (don’t need more as I don’t drink and I am not an anxious fellow otherwise, so not to much stress to recover from). This notably extends my day quite a bit as I now have 18-19 hours a day to work with balancing fun and work.
* 5-9 hours of not at the desk
* generally when I’m not at my desk and there is no other pressing personal issue on my mind I’d say that I spend at least 1/2 my mental energy on work (so make it 3 hours a day)
* I generally work 5 days a week minimum and almost always find something fun on Saturdays for 6 hours. I do try to take Sunday off from the desk bit of the job.

* Desk 10-14 (call it average 12)
* Mental time 3 hours
Add that up:
Weekdays 5 @ 14 (aver 12 @ desk and 2 hours other mental)
Saturday 1 @ 6
Sunday mental energy only so to be conservative we won’t count
Total: 76

Important other calculation: Fun time!
Weekdays 5 @ 6
Saturday 1 @ 12
Sunday 1 @ 18
Total: 60

That’s a pretty dam good life if you ask me, 60 hours of fun a week!

I find that most people have very poorly organised personal lives which makes 40 hours at work seem like a huge impact into their ‘Life’, additionally I find that a lot of people sleep huge amounts of time, watch TV more then they think and spend hours a day commuting. I think if most people audited their time resource they’d discover that it is not their Job that is robbing them of valuable time but many other insidious elements of their lives and if these items were brought into alignment with their personal goals and values that they in fact could devout more time to their career without negative impacts on the rest of their lives.

Rodrigo Venancio

How many hours do you work a week?

The usual. I have this regular job where I spent 45hrs weekly within my own desk

How does it break down between desk work and thinking work, weekday work and weekend work?

I assume that even if I’m at my desk I have to be thinking at least 50% of the time. So I can say I spend 22hrs weekly to enrich my acknowledge.

Have you found a balance that keeps you passionate and productive?

This one is a hard one to answer. Keep us passionate at work includes how much fun you’re having with the time that lefts for ourselves. I think this “fun time” creates this balance between personal stuff and professional since we’re know how and when to split both.


Mike and ‘Guy’ have both got it about right–there’s one thing to ‘be at work,’ and a completely different thing to ‘be productive.’ As for work, It probably averages about 11hrs/day for me too, not counting other “thought time” dedicated to work activities.


I worked 80-90 hours as a banker before quitting and starting my own business. Now it’s more like 60-70 hours with a breakdown similar to Mike McDerment’s. And it’s hard to account for those hours on weekends when my mind is all about my business. When I worked as a banker, I could totally separate work from play, but with being my own boss, there’s hardly a minute that a thought about the business doesn’t somehow seep in.


I have always had a difficult time understanding how anyone can work more than 10 hours at a time. These people like Marissa Mayer that talk about 16 hour days and minimal sleep are nuts or must think they’re really important. Diminishing return applies to the amount of time one works and it has to be a rather steep drop off after the peak is reached. Steep because you aren’t only effecting yourself but you’re impacting others too. The probablity of you making a mistake or a poor decision in haste while you’re in that downslope on th DR graph is greater than someone who never hits that peak so while you may think you’re the busiest person on the planet and everything needs your attention right away, chances are you’re wrong.

On top of that, in my 14 years at startups my experience is that 75% of the time in the office is spent bs’ing and surfing the net. I’m not just referring to Sales and Marketing either but also to engineering, ops, finance, etc. As an example take into account Their userbase is pretty engineering centric based on their said demographics. All day long those users are digging stories and chatting on the msg boards. Surely this all can’t be directly related to their respective jobs which is just one example of how some people might consider being at work the same thing as working.

Trying to tally how many hours someone works a guess at best because there is no real and universal definition of what work actually means. I can get the things I need to be done to be succesful as defined by my set objectives and goals in 30mins to an hour on most days. That 30-60mins is spread over the course of the entire day so I may only work, as I define to be doing the things I need to do to accomplish my objectives, 4 mins here 20mins there, 10 mins here and 12 mins there over the course of the day. I know I’m not alone because I see the same thing happening all over the valley in my own company and the ones i work with. unless it is actual physical labor, how can you measure work? if you’re in sales and you make 200% of your quota in the first month of the year do you still need to go to the office everyday? Technically you may but the reality is you don’t, at least in my experience. If you are an engineer and you write a script that takes 90% of your coding and automates it, do you still have to be at work for 100% of the day or does being there for 10% suffice? Not that being there means you’re working but you get the point.

IMHO, people shouldn’t be judged on how much they work but on how less they work relative to their achievments. The fact of the matter is that as an employer you should want to hire and keep the most efficient employees you have because they are the people that, due to some innate characteristic can be relied upon to, when given a task, finish it sooner than you thought for cheaper than you budgeted and perhaps even run more efficiently than originally planned.

My point is that we shouldn’t confuse productivity with work because they are apples and oranges.


Thats quite an impressive figure, the way he is balancing his time and schedule is great. I wish i could also do the same, at present i work 8hrs a day so its 48hrs in total and at times when you are doing late night..max to max 50hrs. Bad. I love spending time outside work on saturday evenings & sundays.


Currently I’m at 45 in the office for my day job, with an occasional late day or hopping online to support something from home… I get in at 8, work straight through the day, and try to consistently leave at 5:00.

Then anywhere from 1-5 hours many evenings on a freelance project, 4-10 more on the weekends…

That’s potentially 60 hours a week, and can be more. Plus 1.5 hours each day commuting that’s not on the clock. If I get to go Web Worker, as I hope to in 07, working freelance, I’d like to stick to 4 10-hour days honestly. Though it’ll more likely be 40-50 hours dispersed throughout the 7-day week, with more flexibility to break for personal/family life throughout those days.

Jacob Bohall

Wilde… I would be more inclined to say Mike sounds like a driven person, who finds purpose in what he is doing, and has found ways to balance and enjoy…E.g. the walks, the reading, etc… So I ask.. Please define your use of the term loser… I think the WWD community would love to hear what it is you think makes Mike a loser.
Mike… kudos on Freshbooks.. and I have now discovered another blog I will be returning to. Keep us posted on the branding ideas.


If this is what Mike likes, great. I think he sounds like a real loser, but its nice that wasting ones life on work appeals to some.

Bill Day

It’s very easy for me to slip into working 50-60 hours a week. I have to constantly fight this tendency to keep balance between my personal life and work. I find that by tracking my time in a work log (subject of a previous post on WWD a while back), I better stay on top of things.

There will always be big milestones, critical events, and such that take me way up into the work hour stratosphere. But for most weeks, I strive to get my work done in 40 or so.

Somebody famous once said: “Nobody ever says ‘I didn’t spend enough time working’ on their death bed.” I love what I do professionally, but I want to say “Thank goodness I made time for family and fun” when my time comes.


And to answer you question: I probably spend 45-50 hours depending on how much you count reading related books and travel.

I think some people in the tech world are somewhat immune from answering the question “how many hours a week do you work” because they’d be doing the same sorts of things if they weren’t working. This is esp. muddled when it comes to blogging.

The better phrasing of the question might be: “how many hours that your paid for vs. not paid for do you work a week?”


This podcast from HBR on “Extreme Jobs” is an interesting touch point to this. It’s nice because the authors seem very balanced in their assessment of working 60+ hours a week: short term it’s great, but long term people start looking for new jobs…or, at least, they say they’ll be looking for new jobs.

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