• Marta Krzeminska

Does employment influence how you value your time? Insights from the Value of Time Calculator

Updated: Jan 22

Before we share our analysis on the Value of Time Calculator, we wanted to tell you about our new module on creative thinking, Enhancing Creativity: A Creativity Development System created by Georgia Shreve. You might remember how imaginative you were as a child or wish you had more time right now to express the creative sides of yourself, but few people realize that we can learn to be more creative with practice. Developed with insight from years of study and creativity application, this new program can inspire you to build a creative mindset all over again. Enhance your mind’s potential and design ways to unleash and utilize your creative side with “Enhancing Creativity” For those of you already seeking more creativity in your life, you can take advantage of this new opportunity to access our module on creativity here.

How much is your time worth?

The following article, and the analysis based on it, was by Marta Krzeminska, who volunteered to analyze a fully anonymized segment of our data:

How much is your time worth? This was one of the first questions we set out to answer at Clearer Thinking and led us to develop the Value of Time Calculator. This calculator features an interactive quiz that presents respondents with four different thought-experiments. Each experiment is followed by a thought-provoking question that requires putting a “price” on the time spent. At the end of the quiz, using a carefully designed formula, the tool calculates how much you value an hour of your time. Hundreds of thousands of people have used the calculator since we launched it. In this post, we share some insights from analyzing around 10,000 responses from the period around 2015 to 2018 [1].

Conclusion 1: Employed people value their time higher

This chart shows the average values entered into each question in the calculator. The first four columns represent mean answers to each of the questions, and the rightmost column illustrates the final value of an hour of respondents’ time. The blue bars represent the answers provided by unemployed respondents and the orange bars represent the answers provided by employed respondents.

Fig. 1 Mean values of answers to each question in the Value of Time Calculator, by employment. These differences are statistically significant.

On average, employed people answer with higher values to all the questions. As a result, their average value of time per hour is $39.24, around 80% higher than that of the unemployed, $21.82.

How does location impact these results?

Each respondent was asked to pick a currency they earn in, and we can use these currencies as a proxy for location. It’s important to note that the sample was self-selected. That is, we didn’t set out to find people in each country or region, but got replies only from those interested in calculating the value of their time. There were six currencies in the dataset: US Dollar (USD), Euro (EUR), British Pound (GBP), Israeli Shekel (NIS), and Indian Rupee (INR), Russian Rubles (RUB). Sample sizes for Indian Rupee (INR) and Israeli Shekel (NIS) are relatively small, so those results have considerable uncertainty. The number of Ruble respondents was really small, so we eliminated this group from this summary. All currency values were standardized by converting into international dollars [2]. Here are the results of the value of time for each currency:

Fig 2. Mean value of time by currency, by employment status.

Within each currency group, employed people value their time statistically higher than the unemployed. Here are all the average values of value of time, in international dollars, for each currency group:

The difference in how time was valued between employed people across currencies was also significant. In other words, the difference between the value of time of employed Euro earners ($39.16) and the employed British Pound earners ($31.21), to take one example, was statistically significant. The one instance where there was no significant difference was between employed Euro earners and employed US Dollar earners. North Americans valued their time a little bit more ($40.15 per hour) than the Europeans ($39.16), but this difference wasn't statistically significant.

Conclusion 2: High earnings don’t mean that you appreciate your time more

With data about wages, salaries, and the average weekly work times from this tool, we can calculate average annual work time and earnings per hour across different currencies. This gives us an insight into which groups earn the most, and which work the longest. In the following charts, each bar represents a different currency.

Fig 3. Total mean annual earnings for each currency.

Fig 4. Total number of hours worked annually for each currency group.

In total, people in North America earn the most (around $53,000 per year on average), while people in India earn the least (around $38,000 per year). In terms of time spent working, people in India work the longest (2,310 hours per year) —followed by those in Israel (2,242 hours) —while people in the UK the least (1,890 hours). These results are perhaps not that surprising—although we expect that British people might object that they work less than North Americans! — but, the most interesting findings come from zooming in to look at hourly average pay and value of time. This chart shows mean earnings per hour by currency.

Fig 5. Mean pay per hour for each currency group.

When we checked the ratios of these values to the average value of time, we found that the levels of hourly pay were not always correlated with how people value their time.

Fig 6. Ratios of average pay per hour to value of time, grouped by currency.

North Americans have the highest annual earnings and the highest pay per hour, but they value an hour of their time only at 1.48x higher than an hour of paid work. People who earn in other currencies value their time much higher in comparison to their earnings than North Americans. The European and UK-based earners got paid almost the same amount per hour. But, when we look at the ratios, European earners value an hour of their time at 1.8x more than an hour of paid work, while British people only 1.57 times more. North American earners are second to last, before people in India who value their time only 1.11x higher than an hour of paid work.

Enjoying your work? You might appreciate your time more too!

The calculator asked the employed respondents whether they enjoyed their work. Here is how these groups valued their time:

  • those who enjoy their work: at $41 per hour,

  • those who enjoy their work somewhat: at $37.8 per hour,

  • and those who said they don’t enjoy it: at $35.7 per hour.

These differences are statistically significant.

How does the currency impact these results?

This chart shows replies to the same question, grouped by currency.

Fig. 7. Mean values of the value of time, by work enjoyment, grouped by currency.

The general result holds for earners in North America, Europe, and the UK. But, it appears that things are different in India and Israel. In these countries, it looks like people who don't enjoy their work value their time higher than those who enjoy their work somewhat. However, the results for India and Israel have to be taken with more caution, as these sample sizes were much smaller than for the other three currencies.

Key takeaways

  • Employed people valued their time on average 80% higher than the unemployed.

  • High earnings and high pay per hour didn’t always lead people to value their time higher.

  • The highest earners, North Americans, valued their time only 1.48x higher than an hour of paid work.

  • Europeans and Brits earned almost the same per hour, but they valued their time very differently, 1.8 times and 1.57 times higher than an hour of paid work.

  • People who enjoyed their work valued their time higher than those who don’t. And, even enjoying their work somewhat vs. not at all made a difference in how people valued their time!

We know what you statistically savvy people will say. Perhaps people who value their time higher tend to enjoy many things they do, including work? Or, maybe people who value their time higher, make more careful job decisions and are more likely to end up in jobs they enjoy? There are many factors that influence how people value their time, besides what we captured in the value of time calculator. How do these results compare to what you would expect from how much different people in different countries value their time? If you enjoyed this analysis, let us know! We might share some interesting data from our other tools as well. ________________ [1] All the responses were anonymized before the analysis. [2] Following 2019 conversion rates from OECD data.