In 1748, American Benjamin Franklin wrote, in an essay titled “Advice to a Young Tradesman”, that “time is money”. Today commonplace, the statement by Franklin was a novelty in the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. When each performed an occupation for own account, the day journey was not necessarily governed by the pressure of productivity. The hours spent out of work were not perceived as lost time.
But Franklin came with a new concept, known among economists as “cost of opportunity”. He said: if a worker can earn ten shillings a day, but decides to spend half of the day abroad, he not only will spend the sixpence used in his diversion, but he will also throw away five shillings, or half of what he would have earned if, instead of “idleness”, he had chosen to work the whole day.
Since then, the notion that time is valuable and scarce, in the economic sense of the term, intensified. Management practices routinely relate time and money, either by a direct form of payment by hour of work or by indirect means such as requiring and measuring results in certain periods.
In the paper “The economic evaluation of time: Organizational causes and individual consequences”, published at Research in Organizational Behavior, Jeffrey Pfeffer, renowned professor at Standford University, and Sanford E. DeVoe, specialized in the relations between money and time at University of Toronto, show how the concept of productive time contaminated our life – and not only at work.