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Are we really working harder than ever before?

May 20, 2014

If you were to ask a group of people if we work more hours now than we ever did before, most would say yes. It is commonly accepted that sleep deprivation and burnout is a part of working life, and that this epidemic only seems to be increasing.

 

But is it really true? Statistics tell a  different story. A Canadian study from 2011 compared how people spent their time in 1998 and 2010 and found that overall, women are working the same amount of hours they did in the 1990s, and men are actually working 14 minutes less.  And while it is also commonly believed that we do not get enough sleep, Canadians reported getting 13 more minutes of sleep a day in 2010 than they did in 1998. It was also shown that fewer Canadians identified themselves as "workaholics" and the percentage of Canadians who said they "had no time for fun" dropped from 39% to 29%. The researchers concluded that Canadians appeared to be less time stressed in 2010 than they were in 1998, a finding that challenges the belief that we are more worked and stressed out than ever before.

 

While some professions are actually working more hours in 2010 when compared to 1998, it turns out most of us overestimate how busy we are. We don't take into account how much time we spend watching television, or browsing on the internet. We feel, however, that in our 24/7 economy we must appear busy all the time, to prove our worth. A big difference between 1998 and 2010 is the existence of social media, and it can be a status symbol to describe how busy you are. Researchers also found that in professions where there is a high level of education required and a large salary attached, the desire to overestimate one's working hours is particularly pronounced. This can have negative consequences as qualified people might not enter these professions, not wanting to be "a slave to their job". 

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