60 Hour Weeks? Not Even CLOSE to Worth It.

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How many of you work in a corporate office that has a culture where getting ahead requires “playing the game”? You know what I’m talking about right? Keeping up appearances. Showing up early; working late.

While there are probably some out there that are happy to burn the midnight oil out of pure altruistic goodwill towards the company cause, I suspect most are doing it simply to improve their chances at a higher merit increase or bonus. But here’s my question: “Is it worth it?”  Let’s do the math.

Imagine you’re working a corporate job with a respectable middle of the road salary.  Let’s say you make $65,000. Now once a year, employers typically have a performance review and at the end, you’re rewarded with a merit increase for your efforts that usually aligns somewhat with your performance review.

Whatever the final merit increase percentage you’re gifted, keep in mind that at least around one to two percent of the increase is being eaten up by inflation. Health insurance seems to increase at an exponential rate so perhaps at least another one percent of your increase might go twoards medical and insurance increases alone. But that’s a chat for another time.

Back to our $65,000 middle of the road employee.   

I come from the world of HR. I’ll let you in on a little secret. If you’re fairly low to moderate effort mediocre employee, as long as you don’t attract too much negative attention to yourself and keep your nose down, you’re still likely to earn around a 2.5% merit increase.

In reality, this so-called “merit increase” is more like an inflation cost of living adjustment, but the company calls it a merit increase because it sounds nicer. If most people realized the treadmill they were on it would probably not inspire much effort to continue.

Average merit increases

2018 Merit Increase distribution
2018 Merit Increase distributions

Now every company is not the same but based on this graph from hrdailyadvisor.com, you would have to be in the top 4 percentile to exceed a 5% increase. That is to say, statistically speaking, if you really grind out the hours and put in the extra effort you’re going to have a somewhat reasonable shot at 5 %. You’ve got to be around the top 2% to have a shot at an increase of more than 5%.

You did it! Five percent is YOURS!

 If you’re fairly low to moderate effort mediocre employee, as long as you don’t attract too much attention to yourself, you’re still likely to earn around a 2.5% merit increase.

If we figure that Joe slacker can pull in 2.5% then our passionate dedicated corporate drone that’s being proactve and synergizing everything and is rewarded with a glorious fiver percent squeezed out an additional 2.5 %.

Was it worth it?

$65,000 multiplied by 2.5% for your extra efforts = $1625

This is before tax. 

After tax, let’s do some back of the napkin math and say you’ll have an extra $1,200 to $2000 a year over Joe Slacker. 

You’ll have an extra $1,200 a year over Joe Slacker for your extra efforts.

But what did you have to sacrifice to get this? Well for starters time.

Let’s say that our dedicated corporate soldier came in 30 minutes earlier than he needs to and stays an extra 45 minutes a day to grind out another report, spreadsheet or powerpoint presentation (I refused to say “deck”). This is an extra 1.25 hours of time in the office a day. If our dutiful worker was able to take a one week vacation a year, then he will have worked around 255 days a year.

255 days of working an extra 1.25 hours a day = 318.75 extra hours of work a year

Divide the extra $1,200 in annual take-home pay by the 318.75 hours of extra work to arrive at determine the hourly rate our dedicated worker gave his time away for. $1200/318.75 = $3.76

Around $3.76 an hour.

Three dollars and seventy-six cents per hour. Your reward for spending those extra hours of your life grinding it out is under minimum wage. What else might you have done with those hours?

In my opinion, you’d be better off just picking up a side hustle or doing some freelance work for just a few hours a week. This also puts you in a better situation should you ever get canned.  I’m just sayin.


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