I keep seeing numerous articles about how Americans in white collar professional careers (IT, Healthcare, etc) are working 60+ hours a week regularly. These articles document how it impacts productivity and quality of work negatively and I have witnessed these effects as well throughout my own career. Knowledge workers, when tired, work slower, make more mistakes that need to be fixed, and when focused on punching a clock on order of management tend to be much less creative. The science backs it up over and over again, yet we keep doing it.
Given the science, our gains in productivity, and our unemployment woes, is it time to eliminate the exempt classification system? How would the quality of American life and the employment system change if suddenly when companies demanded that their skilled labor work more than say... 45 hours that they had to pay straight time for the next 10 hours, time and a half for the 10 after that, and double time for anything exceeding that?
I just got to thinking about this since I recently left my job as a Director level employee and am now doing contract work. I get paid for every hour I work... if I only want to work 30 hours, I can work 30 hours, it's my budget. If I am asked to work more, it's more money in my pocket. I've found that my stress level and life satisfaction are through the roof and more and more as I look back to my w2 employee days, I feel that the pressure for salaried employees, based on a 40 hour workweek to work more is... well... at the risk of sounding leftist... immoral. It seems to me that the whole basis of capitalism is compensation for value, and there's a huge chunk of value being given by educated, skilled people that is actually reducing their compensation on a per-hour basis. What's more, a salaried position used to mean you were accruing a pension and other benefits that were meant to inspire loyalty to the employer. Nowadays most companies have eliminated all long term incentives for employees and in fields like mine (IT) the average worker tenure has dropped to under 3 years before a job change. I read articles and hear business leaders bemoaning how tough it is to find and retain great workers, but they don't seem to realize that they've removed long term incentives.
Is the exempt classification outdated? Do you think it would be a net gain or net harm if we were to eliminate it for everyone except officers of companies?