How many hours do you work?

Image from an actual item on Etsy.

It’s a fair question. The standard work week is 40 hours, but many of us—dare I say, most of us—put in far more than 40 hours to our jobs. To be clear, I am not talking about those of us who clock out and then stay at work or choose to go in early. That is a topic worthy of its own post that I am not qualified to write. What I am talking about here is the unrealized time lost. 

The biggest uncompensated time devoted to work is, of course, your commute. I used to commute three hours a day between two jobs. I lived in a circumstance where it was the most reasonable scenario. So, in essence, my work week was 55 hours compensated at a rate of 40 hours. Think about it like this: the commute lowers the rate of pay per hour by 37%. I decided the benefits were worth it because it was also for a finite amount of time (four years). 

But there’s more. Look at your morning routine on the weekdays versus your weekend. Are you sacrificing sleep? How much downtime do you actually have on Monday morning? When the alarm goes off, is your main objective to get out the door to work? If so, why? You’re not on the paid clock, but you are operating on their time. On weekdays I typically shave, wear nicer clothes, pack a lunch. That’s time I spend because I have to please my employer. It’s time spent on them, not me and mine. 

We’re not done yet. What about the things you do on your time because you need to do them for work? Haircuts. Buying business attire. Laundering business attire. Do you take time off work, like put in for PTO, in order to look presentable for work? As a business professional, I spent a couple minutes shaving every morning, got twice as many haircuts as I would have gotten otherwise. 

Now, add in the cost for all this stuff: price of gas, cost of lunch packing materials, the wardrobe necessary, haircuts. (And, yes, if you’re a woman, the cost of these things are much higher, the scrutiny for not keeping up with them is greater, and you will still be paid less on average than a man.) So add all this and subtract it from the time-adjusted rate you are paid. 

That’s what you’re actually bringing in from your employer in exchange for your time. And time is always running out, which should make it increasingly more valuable, right? 

Why do I bring this up? Do I think everyone should quit their job and take to the road like me? No. But I think it is worth having an open and frank discussion with an employer about the real pay for a job and taking a full assessment of how much of your life you’re willing to sign over for how much money. Higher paid jobs come with more cost in terms of your time and your money; it might not be worth it.

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