Financial TimesFinancial Times

Why are we all working so hard?

By Sarah O'Connor

07 Jun 2022 · 3 min read

Editor's Note

A study in the UK has found that we increasingly working harder. What are the benefits and what are the costs? This piece from the Financial Times addresses these questions.

The idea that technology can liberate us from the drudgery of work is a powerful one. It has also been a powerful disappointment, at least so far. Many bemoan the fact that John Maynard Keynes thought we could all be working a 15-hour week by now. But it is not just about working hours. The nature of work also seems to have changed in the past three decades. In spite of — or perhaps because of — new technology, people now say they are working harder to tighter deadlines under greater levels of tension.

The best evidence for this comes from the UK, where large government-funded surveys conducted every five years show rising “work intensification” since the 1990s. The proportion of employees who “strongly agree” their job requires that they work “very hard” increased from 30 per cent in 1992 to 46 per cent in 2017. The share who say they work to “tight deadlines” for at least three quarters of the time has increased from 53 per cent to 60 per cent. And the share who say they work at “very high speed” for at least three quarters of the time has swelled from 23 per cent to 45 per cent.

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