The Stress of Success: The Value of Time and Time Pressure

Topic: Stress, Human Resource Management
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Time is Tight: How Higher Economic Value of Time Increases Feelings of Time Pressure
Authors: DeVoe, S.E., & Pfeffer, J.
Reviewer: Neil Morelli

Do you feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day Like you’re always pressed for time? Well, you’re not alone. DeVoe and Pfeffer recently studied how the perception of time’s value can impact perceptions of time pressure-related work stress. They noted that it’s not just the number of hours or how we react to time pressure, but the economic value of our time that matters.

Turning the value to scarcity heuristic on its head, DeVoe and Pfeffer built upon the idea that the more valuable an object is the more scarce it appears. They specifically hypothesized that the economic value of time would be positively related to greater feelings of time pressure, that time value would be positively related to impatient behavior, and that these relationships would seem stronger when the monetary value of time was made salient.

These hypotheses were supported across a combination of 5 studies (1 longitudinal survey and 4 experimental), demonstrating that the higher the perceived value of time the greater the perception of time pressure. In other words, higher incomes, higher billable rates for time, and feeling richer (all proxies for having a perception of greater time value) were related to greater time pressure and less patient behavior.

These results may be one example of why more Americans seem to be pressed for time, even though the ratio of work to free time hasn’t changed in 5 decades. Thus, as societies begin to make more money, perceptions of time pressure and stress may increase as well. Though not a mandate for organizations to refuse proper compensation, these findings highlight how increased financial success can translate into increased time pressure-related stress.

DeVoe, S.E., & Pfeffer, J. (2011). Time is tight: how higher economic value of time increases feelings of time pressure. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(4), 665-676.

human resource management,organizational industrial psychology, organizational management