Small Business

Hourly Workers Lie About How Much They Work

That employee who talks about tirelessly working 60 hours a week could be a great team player -- or a self-promotional liar.

People overestimate the number of hours they typically work each week by 5 to 10 percent, according to a study by John P. Robinson of the University of Maryland for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The tendency to pad the numbers didn't just serve those who felt they were underworking -- the study found that "the greater the estimate, the greater the overestimate."

The people who said they usually worked 55 to 64 hours a week were overestimating by about 10 hours, while those who claimed to work 65 to 74 hours a week were overshooting by about 20 hours. According to the BLS, the average U.S. workweek in September clocked in at 34.5 hours.

Rather than just being poor calculators, the reason most people overestimate, researchers concluded, was because they don't want to appear lazy.

BLS statistics show that productivity increased by 2.2 percent in the second quarter of 2012, and that hours worked rose 1.7 percent since the second quarter of 2011. No word on whether those were actual hours people worked or hours they said they worked.

The study conducted in 2011, received renewed attention after getting picked up by "Harvard Business Review" Friday.


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