Will working more make you happy?

Time is money and time is happiness, therefore money is happiness. It sounds logical...

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 25 Jul 2017

Millionaires of the world rejoice. Research suggests that yes, money can buy you happiness. Sort of. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, an American journal, found that people who spent money to save time, for instance by paying for a cleaner, were happier than those that did not, regardless of their income.

The reason is that the perception of having too little time makes you stressed, so if you free up time, stress is reduced and happiness increases. In effect, money = time, time = happiness, therefore money = happiness.

The implication seems clear: if you want to be happier, you either need to spend less money on passing pleasures, or just get more money. For those of us who aren’t millionaires, this means working more.

It can be an efficient solution, so long as your hourly take-home pay is higher than the hourly cost of hiring a gigger on TaskRabbit to run your errands for you: you end up with more money without sacrificing free time, or vice versa.

The problem is that it makes the assumption that the extra time working won’t have a negative impact on your happiness.

It’s not fashionable in professional circles to speak about work as a burden. We’re supposed to live and breathe it; it’s supposed to give us purpose. Yet only around one in six UK employees are engaged, according to Gallup.

While the figure is no doubt somewhat higher among professionals who work long hours, there will still be a lot of people in that category for whom work is just a means to an end, a necessary evil they endure to provide for their future. Or those who enjoy it, but only up to a point. In either case, effectively trading housework for more time in the office may not be such a great deal.

Ultimately, then, while working more may bring all sorts of benefits – stress-reducing financial security not least among them – it is the quality of work that contributes most to your happiness, not the volume of it. If both businesses and individuals can focus more on that, it will be better for everyone. 

Read more: Can design thinking transform your career?

Image credit: Tina Franklin/Flickr


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