75 Hour Work Week? Yeah, Right!

Long HoursSarah Kliff over at WonkBlog has written a very useful employment article. It isn’t useful for employment. It is useful for telling your friends who claim that they work 80 hours per week that they’re wrong. Kliff puts it more bluntly: Your friend who claims to have a 75-hour work week? He’s probably lying.

I’m not going to bore you with lots of facts and figures—and graphs, because Kliff works for Ezra Klein (you can imagine what their parties are like). Instead, I’ll give you the take home: the more people work, the more they over estimate how much they work. People who work 40 hours per week, tend to overstate their hours by two. But it goes way up from there. People who claim to work 60 hours per week, really work 50 hours. But there is a wrinkle. People who claim to work 75 hours per week, also work 50 hours!

A much better gauge of this is not “How many hours do you work in a typical week?” This number is understandably vague and error prone. A much better question is, “How many hours did you work last week?” In this case, people are much better. People who claim to work 60 hours per week, really work 54 hours. Those who claim 75 hours, really work 60 hours.

There are two take aways from this. First, don’t ask people how many hours they work. Ask them how many hours they worked last week. Second, tell them they’re full of shit.


An interesting aspect of this is that people who work part time claim to work less than they actually do. So if you’re working part time, make sure you get paid for all your hours!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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