Student work hours should not be increased on weekdays

Graphic by Anne Schill.

Graphic by Anne Schill.

As more and more students flood colleges around the country, ways to differentiate oneself from the crowd are quickly becoming a necessity. Students are taking full Advanced Placement course loads, playing sports and practicing instruments, all while working part-time jobs on the side. With everything that students are doing already, having to work more than four hours on any given weekday should not be thrown into the mix as well. This will only lead to students losing more sleep and an increase in overall student stress.

Because of current work permits, students aged 14 to 15 are allowed to work three hours on a school day and eight hours on a non-school day up, adding up to a maximum of 18 hours per week. The time allotments are broadened for students aged 16 to 17, who are allowed to work for up to a maximum of 40 hours per week. A 17-year-old student with six periods goes to school for six and a half hours a day, five days a week, coming to a total of 32.5 hours per week. Factoring in eight hours of sleep per day, a student working 40 hours a week would use up more than 75 percent of his or her time solely going to school, working and sleeping, not including any extracurriculars, meals or time to relax. This percentage is already unbelievably high and places far too much stress and pressure to work on an already over-functioning generation. Increasing the limit of work hours per week would leave students with no time to unwind and simply be themselves.

Senior Joe Kull works in a shop in downtown Los Altos. On some school days, he goes to class for six hours, and then works a six hour shift from 3 to 9 p.m.

“I think working after school increases my stress level,” Joe said. “After a long day of school, it’s just very tiring to have to work for another six hours, especially when you’re constantly thinking about all the homework you could be doing.”

In a study conducted by Brigham Young University, 64 percent of students reported that having a part time job while school was in session increased their overall stress level. On the other hand, the study also found that 74 percent of students who worked 20 hours per week found that having their job helped them be more productive and take advantage of their time.

“I think it really depends on the person,” College and Career Center coordinator Andrea Gorman said. “And I think it depends on their job. If you leave school and you have a job that you really love and it’s an escape and you can relax, then you can go home and focus on your school work then it’s great.”

While students working 20 hours or less per week did have an increase in productivity, any more than that was found to be detrimental to the student’s stress levels and sleep cycle. With our current weekly limit at 40 hours of work, two times the amount recommended in the study, raising it any further seems absurd.

However, some situations arise when these set restrictions do seem impractical, the largest one being in the case where a student needs to work in order to help provide financial support for his or her family. In cases like these, students aged 14 to 15 should be able to work a greater total number of hours on the weekends, when their time isn’t being used for school. This way, students can work in their free time on weekends and not increase stress during weekdays when school is the number one priority.

While working more after school may increase stress for these students, if the family really needs the money, the benefits outweigh the negatives. The struggle that many students face through financial difficulties can cause much more stress than their working a few extra hours on weekdays if they wish to do so.

Student lives are already stressful enough as they are without any after-school work thrown into the mix. Adding more allotted hours of work to an already busy schedule can only end in more students feeling overwhelmed. Laws should make students’ lives easier, never more stressful than they already are.