Fedblog FedblogFedblog
Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

How Many Hours Do You Really Work?


Do you ever wonder about those people who say they work insane amounts of hours each week? It turns out they're probably exaggerating.

At Quartz, our sister publication focusing on global business, Daniel Yanofsky writes about a Bureau of Labor Statistics study detailing the differences that emerge when people are asked how much they've recently worked and when they're asked to fill out diaries detailing how they really spent their time.

The study shows there's a significant gap between the two figures, and it gets bigger the more hours people claim to work:

Responding to questions of the type “How many hours do you usually work (or did you work last week)?” workers within the range of 35- to 45-hour work weeks tend to report relatively similar work hours when filling out time diaries and when answering questions asked with the time-estimate approach, but the higher the respondent’s estimated number of hours per workweek, the larger is the gap between the estimates obtained with the two approaches. Workers estimating 50- to 80-hour workweeks had progressively greater gaps between this estimate and what they reported in their diaries.

Indeed, according to data gathered for BLS' American Time Use Survey, people who claim to work 75 hours a week actually work more like 50 hours. The gap has gotten larger over time, too. In 1965, the overall average discrepancy between estimated work hours diary-recorded hours was 1.3 hours. It grew as high as 3.7 hours for the 1998-2001 time period before settling down to 2.4 hours for the 2003-2007 period.

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.