That makes me very American, but not so much a Utahn, apparently.
Wallethub came out with a ranking this week of the best states in which to live. Utah finished ninth, which is a good thing. But one of the reasons Utah scored so high is that it finished first as the state with the lowest hours worked per week.
That’s right. No matter how hard you think you’re working, people in other states are working harder.
Do we want to be known as the state most like Europe?
I was in Norway a few years ago, anxious to find a store I was told had the best selection of Norwegian sweaters. But when I got there, it was closed. A sign on the door said the owner had decided to take a few weeks vacation because, after all, it was the middle of vacation season.
That’s the summer vacation season, as in the tourist season, when people like me come around looking for something unique to buy. As an American, this made me pace up and down the sidewalk and deliver an imaginary discourse on supply and demand, profit optimization and a bunch of other things I know little about and that have little to do with Norway always finishing near the top of those surveys about the happiest people on earth.
This isn’t the first time a report singled Utahns out for working less than anyone else. Last fall, business.org found that people here work 37.3 hours per week on average, compared to 41.6 hours in hard-working Alaska.
“Ironically,” the website quipped, “Utah’s motto is ‘Industry,’ and one of its state emblems is the hardworking honeybee.”
Oh yeah, I get it. Funny.
I’m sure by now you’ve come up with several reasons that might explain all this. Utahns value families, which probably translates into a desire to leave work quickly and go home to play with the kids. Or, if you’re a bit more cynical, you may believe it’s harder to get a full-time job here than elsewhere, resulting in fewer hours worked.
That last one would be wrong. As business.org pointed out, the states with the longest average work weeks are the ones dependent on blue-collar energy jobs, where oil workers toil day and night. All except for Washington, D.C., which finished third on the list, and where no one seems to know what anyone is doing.
Besides, if you can’t find full-time work, you’re more likely to get a couple of part-time jobs and work a lot more than 40 hours each week.
The states with the least hours worked tend to be dependent on professional jobs and the healthcare industry. Utah’s median family income, meanwhile, was $77,940 in 2017, which was more than $4,000 higher than the national median.
So maybe we really have figured out how to make more money in less time.
The truth is, it’s hard to know for sure what these figures mean, or even whether they’re accurate. Americans like to brag about how hard-working they are. A lot of figures seem to back this up. We work more hours, take less vacation time and struggle more to retire than people in any other industrialized country.
Or do we?
A recent Gallup poll found that only 44 percent of American workers say they are completely satisfied with their chances for a promotion. Only 35 percent are completely satisfied with the money they make.
Figures like these led economics professor Jeffrey Dorfman to wonder on forbes.com whether Americans have an incentive to self-report “that they are working really, really hard” to make themselves look better.
Let’s face it, not all 40-hour weeks are created equal. Some people do more real work before lunch than others do in a day filled with online shopping and breakroom chatting. In the end, I’m guessing few people lie on their deathbeds wishing they had spent more time at work, anyway.
As I wipe the crumbs off my desk, I must confess that, regardless of what the numbers really mean, if Utahns have learned to balance work with family and recreation, that’s nothing to be ashamed about.