Americans, who work some of longest hours in the Western world, often complain about lack of free time. But Cristobal Young, an assistant professor of sociology at Stanford University, says the situation is more complex. In a study with colleague Chaeyoon Lim published in Sociological Science, Young discovered that for free time to be satisfying, it must coordinate often with that of friends and loved ones.
Drawing on data from over half a million respondents, the study shows that “both workers and the unemployed experience remarkably similar increases in emotional well-being on weekends and have similar declines in well-being when the workweek begins.” The authors say this is largely because social time increases sharply on weekends for both workers and the unemployed. “Weekend well being is not due to time off work per se but rather is a collectively produced social good stemming from widely shared free time.”
Writing in The New York Times, Young calls time a “network good” -- something that derives its value from being widely shared. Young notes that many workplaces are upping worker flexibility, but says the research suggests, “a disadvantage of these efforts is that they may lead us even further from a weekend-like system…[and] threaten, ultimately, to exacerbate the decline in civic engagement and social contact…”
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