Calculating the value of your time can be useful for making money decisions, like how long it will take you to pay for that new gadget you want — but there’s a downside to it, too. Turns out, the old “time is money” adage can stress you out.
Photo by Jeremy Seitz
A recent study published in the Academy of Management Journal looked at how workers’ stress levels change when they value their earnings in relation to time as opposed to a general salary. To gauge this, the researchers measured cortisol, “the stress hormone”.
They found that when workers were instructed to think “time is money” when completing a task, their cortisol levels were nearly 25 per cent higher. The study concluded:
A commodified view of time can increase impatience and make someone feel pressured to “use time wisely”. And thinking of time like money can diminish the meaning of a person’s work and psychological attachment to the job, thereby making tasks more stressful. Thus, increasingly common work arrangements that commodify time may increase stress.
In other words, when we put a monetary value on our time, it makes us value our work less and also stress out over whether we’re using our time in the best possible way. One of the study’s coauthors, professor Jeffrey Pfeffer of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, criticises the gig economy and hourly work in general for making people extra aware of how much they earn with their time.
There’s another side to this, though: your time is valuable. Most of us do want to use it wisely. In fact, the value of our time is priceless, but when we work, we’re paid money in exchange for it. While focusing too much on that figure can be stressful, not knowing what that value is can be problematic, too. If you consider yourself a high earner at $US80,000 ($108,201) a year, for example, but your employer also expects you to put in 60-80 hours a week, your idea of how much you earn doesn’t at all consider the value of your invaluable time.
In many salaried jobs, employees are simply expected to give up more of their time and effort without actually being compensated for it. Ideally, you want to be paid for that extra time you’re giving up (or at least use it to your advantage when you negotiate a raise). So: know your worth, but don’t micromanage your time. Time may be money, but your health is even more valuable.