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Think You Work 60 Hours a Week? Here’s Why You Might Be Wrong


When someone says they work 60 hours or more a week, we tend to cluck sympathetically, picturing long hours of thankless toil. But according to new research from the University of Maryland, we can sympathize 5 to 10 percent less — because that’s how much the average worker overestimates their work week.

Where’s the discrepancy between fact and perception? The problem may be in how researchers have traditionally gathered data, via survey some time after the fact. There’s also the problem of defining what work is. As the research team at the University of Maryland puts it:

“Asking someone ‘How many hours do you work?’ assumes that each respondent interprets ‘work’ the same way, searches his or her memory for all episodes of work during an extended period, and is able to properly add up all the lengths of all the episodes across the day or across days in the previous week.”

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The article doesn’t come right out and say that we’re spending some of that estimated workday wasting time on Facebook, but we can read between the lines.

So what’s a more accurate way of figuring out how long the average work week is? Researchers who used diaries — in other words, logged hours on the day of work, instead of going by respondents’ memories several days or weeks later — appeared to get a more accurate picture.

None of which makes much of a difference, of course, to the workers who feel burned out. But perhaps it can give them a better picture of what’s actually wrong with their jobs.

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(Photo Credit: mattimattila/Flickr)

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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