Surviving the 60–80 hour work week

Life in 2023 in our little island nation has become fast paced, competitive and unforgiving than ever. It keeps demanding more and more from the everyday worker. Now, with Sri Lanka battling one of the worst crises of its time, Sri Lankans are not seeing promising days anytime soon. 

Amidst crippling in economic debt, the island nation has seen a massive increase in living costs. With the ongoing foreign currency shortage leading to the inability to purchase oil necessary to generate electricity, the Ministry of Power recently declared seven-and-a-half-hour power cuts on a daily basis. Long queues are not uncommon in many parts of the island where people queue up for petrol and gas, essential goods and even sachets of milk powder; a rare luxury to come across these days.

With the economic plunge, most people have been forced into working longer hours and multiple jobs to make ends meet. It has not become uncommon for most of the working-class people to grind through a 60 or an 80 hour work week to scrape through the month. Since the covid-19 pandemic lashed through the country the work force has been shelled with salary reductions, unpaid or delayed wages, and forced resignations. As a result, people have taken on extra hours to earn more money and working longer work weeks are becoming increasingly common across both the skilled and unskilled labor force.

Balancing the pros and cons

Working over 48 hours a week is not necessarily bad. Committing to these extra long hours can leave you with some extra cash in your pocket that would undoubtedly help you to manage the budget during these tough months. If you are juggling two jobs day and night which amounts to the 60-80 hours between them, then you have willingly or unwillingly submitted to learning new skills while trying your luck in a new environment or trade.

Nevertheless a 60–80-hour work week is nothing to be glorified about. It has raised concerns of nourishing a misguided workforce within the country. While it is not uncommon for an engineer, a school teacher or even a banking associate to work as an UBER driver during the night to earn some extra cash, multiple jobs have started to foster ‘Jacks of all trades’ but ‘Masters of none’. Another major concern of working long hours is the inability to spend enough time with your family, friends, engage in hobbies, focus on your health or do some odd repairing and cleaning around the house. It certainly doesn’t leave you with time to stand in petrol or gas queues either.

The issue at hand is that most of the people who have succumbed to long work weeks have been forced in to doing so as they have been left with no choice with the collapsing economy and the nasty dent it has left on their daily lives. Still, working these long odd hours week after week can teach our culture to place plethoric value on the concept of “hard work” which can have a positive impact on the country in the long run. At the same time, being forced to work long hours regardless of one’s preference could also lead to job dissatisfaction, inability to sustain passion and enthusiasm in work, affect one’s health and create noticeable disruptions in our psychological wellbeing.

Attitude matters

Yes. Your attitude can make or break your 60-80 work week. Sacrifice willingly and focus on your gains as opposed to what you lose and you will sail through. Stop blaming yourself for the grind you are going through because it is also a failure in part of the leaders of our society and their decisions which has collectively led us to this challenging time. Working more hours will re-shape the work culture and undoubtedly give birth to creative problem solvers and entrepreneurs while moulding a driven and optimistic society. Facing a 60–80-hour work week will teach us to exclude factors such as luck and place more value in learning, skills and talent. Prioritizing important tasks is another helpful tip to ease the stress of a tough work week. Finally, having at least two hours every day where you can completely disconnect from work would help towards your psychological health. 

Working more would not necessarily lead the country to economic success but it would have an individual impact on the lives of Sri Lankans and teach us to embrace a “what can we do about it?” attitude and survive the week instead of sitting and complaining to our heart’s content.

Janidu Samaranayake