Is Time More Important Than Money?

The Epilogue of Naked Economics brings up the topic of American productivity. Wheelan describes the idea of the “backward-bending labor supply curve…as our wages go up, we will work longer hours- up to a point, and then we will begin to work less.”1 In recent years more and more studies have been conducted proving to people that working long weeks is detrimental to your health. With these studies, the idea that Wheelan proposes of Americans working sixty hours a week to live rich in 2050 seems unlikely. Rather our lives seem to be guided towards “work twenty-five hours a week and listening to classical music in the park for the balance.”1 Could these studies indicate that we are back bending and Americans are starting to work less?

It is proven that people who work 55 or more hours a week are more likely to develop heart disease or to have a stoke than someone who works 35 to 40 hours.2 In addition people are more stressed when they work longer hours and this stress can lead people to increase alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking. The stress is commonly caused because of the naturally stressful environment at work and also the separation from family because of the pressure to get work done. But people do not realize that working longer does not necessary mean the more work will get done. In 2015 a study was conducted at Harvard that “found that employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week, and falls off a cliff after 55 hours—so much so that someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours.”3 Another productivity killer is sleep deprivation, which is common among some workers who are trading their sleep to spend more time getting work done. These studies have led to companies adopting new work hours like the 4 day work week where people work 10 hours a day in order to have a longer weekend. This is “offered as an option to at least some employees at 43% of companies, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.”4 Companies have also started to allow half days on Fridays to improve worker performance and welfare. But people are also choosing to work less on their own.

In general it is proven that “Americans slept an average of 8 hours and 50 minutes a day in 2015, 13 minutes more than a decade earlier and two minutes more than in 2014.”5 Also Americans are starting to work less the “average weekly hours per worker ages 25 to 54 have declined from about 41 to 40.”6 This decline in working has also been linked with generations, “under-55 cohorts no longer view formal employment as a central part of their social identity.”6 People are now choosing to not have a job and are sleeping more lowering the amount of time Americans work in general. All of this proves that as time goes on Americans are working less because time is becoming more important than money. They would rather spend time sleeping and relaxing, rather than working more to make more money. And research proves that their decision to work less improves their health and productivity.

  1. Wheelan, Charles J. Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science. New York: Norton, 2002.
  2. Welch, Ashley. “Working Long Hours Could Be Bad for Your Heart.” CBSNews. August 2015. Accessed December 06, 2016.
  3. Sullivan, Bob. “Memo to Work Martyrs: Long Hours Make You Less Productive.” CNBC. January 26, 2015. Accessed December 04, 2016.
  4. Sahadi, Jeanne. “The 4-day Workweek Is Real … for Employees at These Companies.” CNNMoney. April 27, 2015. Accessed December 04, 2016.
  5. Morath, Eric. “Americans Sleeping More, Working Less, Survey Finds.” The Wall Street Journal. June 24, 2016. Accessed December 03, 2016.
  6. Howe, Neil. “Why Americans Are Working Less.” Forbes. Accessed December 02, 2016.

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