WORKPLACE / JAN. 27, 2014
version 6, draft 6

How Much is an Hour of Your Time Worth?

I walked into the interview room at a job agency in London and sat down in front of the consultant, waiting to be asked what I assumed would be the first probing statement: “tell us a bit about yourself”. Instead, the question fired across the room was “how much are you worth?”

Good question.

How much is your time worth? What’s your price? How much are you willing to trade your energy for? Or perhaps an even better question, if you accept a job, how much will you truly be paid per hour? When everything that a job costs you is taken away, how much is your hourly rate? If a job advertisement says you will be paid 15 big ones per hour, is that how much you will actually be making?

You may be thinking a job won't cost me anything, it will increase my bank balance. It is true that you make dollars through a job, but it will also cost you. How? Let’s break it down.

Transport

If you live in a big city commuting to and from work is a large part of having a job. Every morning and night I spend about an hour on trains so I can work. Living in London, transport isn’t cheap. I pay more than 30 pounds a week to have the luxury of getting transported around the city. Unless you work from home, paying for transport is a reality of work life. Make sure you deduct the cost of transport from your potential hourly wage.

Clothes

It's likely you won't wear the same clothes to work as you do when you’re chilling at home or out with friends. Many jobs either require you to wear a uniform or dress in a professional manner. This costs money. I often buy new items of clothing just so I can look the part at work. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to charge this to my employer. The cost of your shopping trips for work clothes would also need to be deducted from your hourly rate.

Meals

A full-time job generally means that you will be away from home for at least eight hours a day. Chances are you will eat at least one meal while you’re at work. Although everyone can bring their lunch to work, often you will find yourself rushing down to the nearest takeaway restaurant to get a bite to eat while at the office. This will cost you more money than if you were able to make a meal at home. Chuck the extra cost of those meals into your calculator and deduct it from your hourly wage.

Time

It ‘s highly unlikely that you will only work the hours that are stated on your contract. Work tasks have a funny way of taking more time than expected and you will probably spend more minutes in the office than you initially thought you would. Not only do you need to take into account how many hours you actually work, but also how much time you spend thinking about work while you aren’t actually on the clock. I’ve had nights when I’ve woken up paranoid that I forgot to complete a task that may have ended world hunger. Fine, that’s slightly dramatic but you get the picture. You will probably end up investing more time than you realise in your job.

Your true hourly rate is not just how much is stated on your contract, it is how much you make after you deduct the cost of everything involved in being employed. Transport, clothes, meals and time may only be a few of the expenses that need to be deducted from your potential hourly rate. How much is an hour of your time worth to you? This is an important question to ask yourself before you sign on the doted employee contract line.

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