December 12, 2009
Hourly vs. salaried workers: Who's happier?
Back in my contract worker days, I was a hardcore clock watcher. Even if I didn't like a project I'd been tasked with, I'd remind myself that by the end of the day I'd have made another couple hundred beans. Usually that was enough to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside (at least until my lunch break).
According to a study published in the current issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, I was not alone. Researchers found that those paid by the hour "focus more attention on their pay" than their salaried counterparts. And, researchers said, because hourly workers have an easier time associating each hour they toil with a specific, constant dollar amount, they're happier for it.
On the other, conventional wisdom states that salaried workers generally make more than hourly ones, both monetarily and in terms of benefits. Once upon a time, this was a boon for salaried workers, a boon you'd think would make salaried workers more satisfied than their hourly counterparts. These days, though, being salaried often means working an extra 10 to 20 hours a week to absorb the workload of an officemate who was laid off, with no hope for additional compensation.
I question the usefulness of this study, not just because the recession has skewed employee compensation beyond recognition, but because people's approaches to balancing work and life are so varied. Some folks refuse to work one minute more than the requisite 40 hours a week and have been fortunate to find a job that doesn't require them to. Others prefer to do a little work after dinner or on weekends, just to feel on top of the projects on their plate. Countless others don't have a choice about how or when they work -- or how they get paid.
Readers, what do you think? If you had your choice, would you rather be paid by the hour or on salary?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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