Linked: In Praise of Doing Nothing

I’m sure these statistics will not surprise anyone:

“American workers’ productivity has increased dramatically since 1973. What has also increased sharply during that same period is the pay gap between productivity and pay. While productivity between 1973 and 2016 has increased by 73.7 percent, hourly pay has increased by only 12.5 percent. In other words, productivity has increased at about six times the rate of hourly pay.”

I want to dig a bit deeper though. Because when we see that, our immediate, and not entirely incorrect, assumptions involve increasing minimum wage, cracking down on overtime pay, etc. The obvious stuff.

But there’s not so obvious stuff that hits a little closer to home for many of the folks who work in technology, legal, and other fields where most of us are salaried as opposed to being hourly employees.

We tend to forget that there is still a number attached to us regarding hourly pay, and what it means when our “normal” work week goes from 40 to 45-50, or even up to 60 hours per week.

That hourly pay rate starts to go way, way down.

Let’s do a little math, OK?

We might think working 9 hours a day is no big deal really. It’s just an extra hour, right? We probably spent that much time commuting before we worked from home anyway, right?

But, what about that hourly pay rate? What, exactly does that 9 hour work day mean?

  • 1 hour per day = 5 hours per week.
  • Every 4 weeks, that is 20 extra hours of work.
  • (Rounding down to 4 weeks per month, 48 months per year) that makes 240 hours per year. That adds up 30 8-hour work days, that employers get for free, every year.
  • If you work 50 hours per week? That’s 60.
  • 60 hours per week = 120 extra work days to your year.

And since we know no one in the US actually takes those other 4 weeks of the year as vacation and spend them completely unplugged, the actual numbers are slightly higher.

This is also why that hourly pay rate is so low above. Because so many hours go essentially unpaid.

Now, I’m not saying we’re all just going to go back to only working 40 hours per week, but how much of that increase in productivity would go away if everyone did? Not all, granted, but it’d put a dent in it.

So the owners of the organizations we work for get that huge productivity increase, while pay rates don’t increase nearly as much, and they’ve also managed to sell us all the lie that working all those hours just shows how important we are and we should feel honored to be so important.

In the meantime, the rest of our lives are a mess and no one can figure out what to do about it.

I’ve got an idea. How about not giving away 50-100 work days every year for nothing?

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