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  • Writer's picturecindybabington

Calculating Your Work Years

Until fairly recently ever since I retired two years ago, I have made efforts to go back to work. Well, that isn't completely accurate. I have felt that I should go back to work, but I haven't actually tried very hard to get back to work. I have been trying to sort out - both why I think I should go back to work and why I don't want to.

I have a theory that each person has a certain number of years of work in them. The number is probably pretty similar from person to person, but I suspect the way people work influences the total count of years. I believe that the years I worked in leadership positions at a University accumulated to more years than the actual number of years. Hear me out. Working in a job that requires long hours or has high levels of stress or both saps more mental and physical energy (and spirit) than a job that doesn't. You can even like the work you do, but working excessive hours and under difficult circumstances will eventually be wearing.

I got to wondering if there were a way to calculate the total number of years worked taking into consideration stressful jobs and long hours. Here's what I came up with.

1. Regular 40-hour workweek and average amount of stress.

1 actual year = 1 recalculated year

2. Long hours or lots of stress

1 actual year = 1.25 recalculated year

3. Long hours and lots of stress

1 actual year = 1.5 recalculated year

In my example, from 22 when I graduated from college to 34 I worked jobs that had pretty normal hours and had an average amount of stress or I was in graduate school. So I gave myself 12 actual years of work for this time period.

When I was 34 I began a new job at a University. For 5 years I worked in a job at the University with normal hours and normal stress. So I gave myself 5 actual years of work for that time period.

From 39 until 61 when I retired, my jobs were all in leadership positions and while the semesters and years varied, the norm was long hours and a great deal of stress. I multiplied 22 years using 1.50 as the multiplier. Instead of 22 actual years, the impact of those years was recalculated to 31.50 years.

In my life, post-college, I worked 38 years actual years. Adding the years worked using this method, I calculate that I worked the equivalent of 48.5 years. Or instead of retiring at the age of 61, in recalculated years, it was closer to 72.

There is no scientific basis for my theory or calculations (that I could find), but I do know there were years that when graduation rolled around, I was barely conscious, just limping to the finish line. And I loved my job!

My conclusion is there has to be a better way to work. Work that doesn't exhaust people, leaving little time for children, partners, recreation, exercise, or just reflection. Currently, there is a great deal of conversation around the value of work and the value of time away. Jonathan Malesic writing in an essay entitled The Future of Work Should Mean Working Less published in the New York Times says "The conventional approach to work - from the sanctity of the 40-hour week to the ideal of upward mobility - led us to widespread dissatisfaction and seemingly ubiquitous burnout even before the pandemic." There is a great deal of evidence to support the fact that if employers were better tuned in to their employee's needs and discouraged working when "off the clock," and encouraged more regular time away, leaves of absence, and healthy activities during the workday, employees would be happier, more engaged, and more productive.


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