You May Even Be Staying Late At the Office to Read This

Peter Drucker got a lot of things right, but not everything. In 1957, he noticed that Americans were starting to get more time off. The trend, he predicted in America’s Next Twenty Years, would hold.

Photo credit: alanclarkdesign

“There can be little doubt that total hours worked will continue to decline as a result of longer vacations, more holidays, and a shorter work week,” Drucker declared. “The American people have made it thoroughly clear that they have decided to take, in the form of greater leisure, a big slice of any increase in productivity.”

If only. As we head into a Christmas weekend, many of us are still working on Friday, and will be checking email sporadically on Saturday, revving up for the week on Sunday night and headed back into the office on Monday morning (or at least working from home). [EXPAND More]

We’ve pointed out before how poorly Americans do at taking time off—and the fact that Drucker himself was no exception, preferring to work even on holidays. Perhaps having lived through the Great Depression gave him a fear of idleness. “The workless society of the futurist utopia may, indeed, be ahead,” Drucker wrote in People and Performance. “Should it come, it would, however, produce a major personality crisis for most people.”

Whatever the case, by the time Drucker wrote Management Challenges for the 21st Century, published in 1999, his earlier prognostications on increased leisure had clearly been shelved. “Leisure . . . is ‘mature’ and may be ‘declining.’ In the developed countries we are probably at the end of the steady cutting of weekly hours,” he noted. “Indeed, there are signs that work hours are going up again—especially in the United States and the U.K.”

The trend that Drucker spotted has since been validated by numerous studies, including a recent study from Towers Watson. Among its key findings: Almost two-thirds of organizations report that employees have been working more hours over the past three years, and over half expect this to continue over the next three. Many also report employees have been taking less time off.

Why do you think Americans are working more and taking off less? (Weigh in with a comment here, and fill out our Urtak survey below, as well.)[/EXPAND]