Viewing time as money boosts stress, researcher says

People who perceive time as money are significantly more stressed than those who have a more fluid vision of time, according to new research by Thomas D. Dee II Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer Ph.D. ’72 at the Graduate School of Business.


More than a decade ago, Pfeffer noticed that his Stanford payroll designated an hourly wage based off the 40 hours he worked for 52 weeks a year. The realization began to nag at him, and he became constantly aware of the economic gain or loss of each hour of work.

In his recent research, Pfeffer found that his own experience has scientific backing. He and coauthor Dana Carney of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley recruited 104 subjects to work for two hours for a made-up company. Although each subject knew their overall pay for the two hours, half the subjects were asked to calculate their money-per-minute pay rate before the two hours began, while the other half were not.

The results were striking. Subjects who were aware of their per-minute payoff exhibited salivary cortisol levels around 25 percent higher than those who were not viewing the two hours in strict time-to-money terms; cortisol is linked to a variety of physical health issues. The more time-aware subjects also did not enjoy the two breaks the study provided, during which they were able to listen to music or view art, nearly as much as the other subjects.

“A rise of almost 25 percent [in cortisol levels] is a serious health consequence,” Pfeffer told Insights by Stanford…

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