Work Ethic: A Lesson for Hourly Employees


This post was originally published on the FCR blog on September 1, 2016. Click here to read the original.

My colleague Adam Crouch wrote a great post some time ago imploring his fellow millennials to work harder. He cited the likes of Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Kobe Bryant (Go Lakers!) as great examples of folks who worked countless hours to cultivate their talent and build something truly great.

While I don’t really have aspirations of being mentioned in the same conversation with the aforementioned, I do resonate with much of what Adam said in my own career journey. As a customer service leader I can recount time after time where I stayed up late into the night trying to help the team make a dent in a support ticket queue because our start up didn’t have the money to hire more agents. I recall taking on any number of responsibilities NOT in my job description to help ensure our success. Some of this goes with the territory when we want to be successful.

This got me thinking, however, about my colleagues in contact centers both past and present who work in hourly roles. In their case it’s actually illegal to work more than 40 hours per week without being paid overtime, and any overtime must be approved by their employer. I think it’s important that we talk about what work ethic looks like for this group given that it’s not as simple as saying “work more.” Here are some thoughts for hourly employees when it comes to work ethic.

Make The Most of Your 40

If you’re limited to 40 hours per week, make the most of it. Here are some ideas:

  • Aim to make your quality consistently the best it can be. This requires being really good at receiving feedback.
  • Focus on being a leader on your team, answering questions for your colleagues with a smile and willingness to help.
  • Understand your job responsibilities and do them well.
  • Be attentive in trainings and meetings and use that information to improve your performance.
  • Keep an eye on your email and other internal communication channels and be responsive.
  • Be willing to take on extra responsibilities when asked.
  • When it’s slow, ask for more to do.

Be Reliable

Being a great team member is about working really hard to be reliable and it starts with working your scheduled hours. Depending on the size of your team, being late or calling off can have a big impact on the rest of your team and the quality of their day. When overtime opportunities do arise, your ability to be flexible and do your best to cover at least some of those opportunities can make a big difference.

Make Yourself Better

If you’re limited to 40 hours a week, that doesn’t have to stop you from bettering yourself. Become a learner by reading, listening, and watching the lessons of those who have gone before you, aiming to make yourself a better worker. Apply those lessons to your work and life.

While television and social media are awesome, they can also be a huge time suck when not kept in check. You should constantly be reading books and articles, watching TED talks, or taking online courses. Don’t forget that exercise, sleep, and a healthy diet sharpen your mind and make you better for when you’re on the clock.


I’ve been at this long enough to be careful not to only measure success by what we do at work. I think of the countless situations of the people I’ve worked with over the years. Perhaps you’re a college student or single parent or a variety of
other situations that make a routine where you live to work at your day job impossible. Your boss is merely one person out of many that you answer to and probably shouldn’t be the most important person on the list at that.


It’s also important to acknowledge the need to connect our work to a greater purpose and the millennial generation is leading this. Maybe you’re working in an hourly role to pay the bills while you develop your true passion that’s seemingly unrelated. I firmly believe that there’s something valuable to be learned from all experiences that prepares your way for future successes. It may take the form of a relationship or a key skill you didn’t realize you needed at the time. Don’t overlook those opportunities.

If you’re an hourly employee, there’s plenty of opportunity to work hard and set yourself up for success without clocking more than 40 hours per week. And maybe you won’t be a 5-time NBA champion or the founder of Facebook– or maybe you will be. Plenty of folks have found their way to successes of all kinds, many of whom worked in hourly roles.


Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

One comment

  • I think this same advice is applicable to anyone. Make the most of your time, be reliable, make yourself better, balance, and find purpose are all excellent.

    I’ve always rejected the notion of “hours worked” making someone a hard worker. Look carefully at how people spend that time. I see people put in long hours, but spend a huge portion of that wasting time. I’ve seen other people who are very focused and methodical in their work and get more done in less time.

    There’s even a growing body of research that suggests long work weeks lead to less productivity, not more. So, I think your tips are great for anyone!

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