2080 or Fewer—How Much Time We Spend on the Job

Based on a 40 hour work week and 52 weeks per year, the math works out to 2,080 hours spent working each year. The government’s General Accounting Office sees things differently (now there’s a shock) and says the average annual hours worked are 2,087, at least for the purpose of calculating an hourly rate of pay.

The fact is Americans actually work far less than 2,087 hours when vacation, holidays and sick days are removed from the equation. According to the Federal Reserve Economic Data Report (FRED), you would need to travel back in time all the way to 1970 to see the average annual hours worked by Americans exceeding 1,900 hours! Yes, in 1970, the annual number of hours worked by the average American stood at 1,912—less than 80 days out of a year!

The most recent data from FRED reports that in 2011, Americans worked an average of 1,758 hours annually … just over 73 days! If we sleep an average of 7 hours per night, that works out to 106 days, meaning each year, we sleep 26 days more than we work. Is it any wonder that the country’s Gross Domestic Product is only growing at a .01 percent clip?

How Does Anything Get Done?

In spite of the dismal statistics above, American workers are deemed to be the most productive on the planet. However, the fact that actual work consumes just over 73 days out of the entire year boggles my mind. How do we rate the status of most productive worker?

Here’s the awful truth! Our European counterparts work even less hours annually than we Americans work. The French, for example work an average of about 1,470 hours annually; the German worker, even fewer, at just over 1,400 hours annually. So, is the American worker more productive or do we just work more hours than folks in other countries?

Turning to FRED for answers, the research showed that Singapore’s workforce logged an average of 2,270 hours, while South Korea and Hong Kong comes in at 2,200 and 2,340 hours respectively. That certainly makes a case for American productivity because we haven’t logged an average approaching 2,200 hours since the late 1800’s. If we average 73 days working and 106 days sleeping, what are we doing with the remaining 186 days? That’s more than one-half of the year!

The Other Half

Naturally, I was curious to know how the average American spends the other one-half of the year. Are you ready?

• Watching TV: 1,825 hours or 76 days, leaving us 110 days

• Listening to the radio: 1,010 hours or 42 days, leaving us 68 days

• Surfing the internet: 365 hours or 15 days, leaving us 53 days

• Smart or cell phone use: 408 hours or 17 days, leaving us 36 days

• Eating and drinking: 408 hours or 17 days, leaving us 19 days

• Bathroom activities: 133 hours or 5.5 days, leaving us 13.5 days

• Commuting to and from work: 154.5 hours or 6.5 days, leaving us 7 days

By these calculations, that leaves us less than one-half hour per day for any other activity we wish to pursue. No wonder life seems short!

We think nothing of taking the time to budget our money. Shouldn’t we put at least as much effort into budgeting our time? Clearly, if we are to truly enjoy our lives, we need to do some prioritizing.

What about You?

Are you surprised by these statistics? Do you have any thoughts about how we spend our time? Will you make any changes in your lifestyle after reading this?

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