Distinctions between Overemployment, Overwork, Workaholism and Heavy Investments in Work Time

Harpaz and Snir book, Heavy Work Investment, 2014 Forthcoming

38 Pages Posted: 24 Dec 2013

See all articles by Lonnie Golden

Lonnie Golden

Pennsylvania State University - Abington College; Economic Policy Institute; Project for Middle Class Renewal

Date Written: December 1, 2013


Contemporary labor economics has focused far more on preferred labor supply, and much less on whether workers are able to get the hours they truly desire, or that even when one’s labor supply could be considered voluntarily provided time and effort, it could lead to unanticipated adverse consequences on their own well-being. Industrial-organizational and occupational health psychology has focused on this latter issue of negative well-being consequences, but less so on the difference in the extent to which situational labor supply is entirely voluntary versus at least partly involuntary. The emerging issue of “heavy work investment” re-frames the issue of the motivations behind labor supply preferences as having short-term costs but often with potential longer term payoffs (Snir and Harpaz, 2012). The purpose of this chapter is to consider why at least some people are driven to work longer hours beyond their initially preferred extent of time commitment, defined as “overemployment,” and perhaps beyond their own capacity that is sustainable in terms of physical or mental health or well-being either, referred to as “overwork.” The first aim is to display a comprehensive model of work hours determination. This employs recent behavioral economics’ emphases on relative status, aspirations and preference adaptation and process benefits. It emphasizes how work hours may be a forward-looking (and also a backward-looking) form of investment for a potential return in future well-being, in the form of income or perhaps non-income amenities at work. It explores the role of incentives, explicit and implicit, in determining a worker’s preferred number of hours. The former refers to extrinsic motivation, such as a monetary bonus for extra production. The latter involves intrinsic motivation, such as public recognition or title with status, for performing extra work. It then goes on to focus on overemployment, the inability to reduce one’s work hours toward preferred shorter hours (and not just a shift in daily timing of a given duration of hours), despite a willingness to sacrifice some pay, which amounts to 18 percent of polled workers in the US. It makes subtle but important distinctions between being overemployed with being overworked or workaholic.

Keywords: overtime; labor supply; overwork; overemloyment; workaholism; hours preferences; heavy work investment; work motivation; labor demand

JEL Classification: J22, J20

Suggested Citation

Golden, Lonnie, Distinctions between Overemployment, Overwork, Workaholism and Heavy Investments in Work Time (December 1, 2013). Harpaz and Snir book, Heavy Work Investment, 2014 Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2371082 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2371082

Lonnie Golden (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University - Abington College ( email )

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Economic Policy Institute ( email )

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Project for Middle Class Renewal ( email )

1408 W. Gregory Dr.
Urbana, IL 61801
United States

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