Working long hours? Here's how it may be costing you

More Americans are at work, according to the latest jobs report, but they're spending more to be there.

Be it grocery shopping, housekeeping, or the hunt for shoes, full-time workers are willing to spend more on outsourcing errands, so they can work longer.

According to the International Concierge and Lifestyle Management Association (ICLMA), spending on personal assistant or errand services is no longer reserved for the uber-wealthy — it's gone mainstream.

"Everybody is trying to squeeze 36 hours into a 24-hour day. Bottom line, technology is not helping, because you can take your office with you. So, we work all the time, and give our to-do lists to someone else," says Katharine Giovanni, president of Triangle Concierge.

Technology isn't the only factor encouraging workaholics. Post-recession cutbacks have put pressure on those working to stay that extra hour, or more.

"Layoffs happened at my previous employer's office. Now, I get in early and send out e-mails so they know I'm there," says Ashley Dinsdale, a buyer for Macy's, who works 50 to 55 hours a week.

The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows the average American workweek got a bit longer in 2011, and private-sector employees average 3.4 hours in overtime per week.

Luckily, the overtime culture has plenty of products designed to help.

Dinsdale, for example, shops for her clothes at Macys.com and Gilt.com, her groceries online at Freshdirect.com, hires a maid service, and often calls a messenger when she needs something delivered.

"These services are requirements at this point. It's not really an option. It's about not having the time to do it myself. I'm not going to risk my career. I'd rather spend the money," Dinsdale says.

The CEO of online grocery business FreshDirect, Jason Ackerman, created a business designed for people like Dinsdale. "We know it to be true from our internal surveys," says Ackerman. "People who are time-starved buy more from us," he said.

Ackerman, who started his business with 200 employees delivering only in the afternoon, now employs more than 2,000, and delivers from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Which brings us to the time value of money. If a product demonstrably saves time, working consumers are often willing to pay a premium for it.

For example, the cost of Fresh Direct products averages as much as 5% higher than brick-and-mortar grocer Shoprite, not including Fresh direct's $5.99 delivery fee, Ackerman said.

Credit card companies such as American Express are also wise to the workaholic's spending habits and are creating credit lines designed to adapt.

The annual fee for the Amex Platinum Card is $450, which buys the cardholder a personal concierge, who will do everything from purchase theater tickets, book a meeting room during a business trip, organize travel and restaurant bookings, and arrange to pick up dry cleaning. Anything to save time.

Alison Herman, a corporate lawyer based in Miami, works 55 hours a week on average, and is a Platinum cardholder. She paid for childcare for 10 years for her two children, and continues to pay for maid service. For her, the costs are an afterthought.

"My philosophy is that it enables me to earn what I do. I recognize there are some costs, but the income I achieve is worth those costs," Herman says.

Clearly, demand for time-saving services is alive and well; even virtual assistant services are gaining popularity on sites such as GetFriday.com and zirtual.com — a 2011 startup.

Both websites serve customers nationwide, and offer scalable monthly payment plans for an unlimited range of tasks, everything from compiling a spreadsheet, taking a car to the shop, or planning a vacation.

For $200 a month, you can bill GetFriday for 20 hours of work requested via phone and email; it's $360 per month for 40 hours of tasks. Zirtual's "executive" plan for $497 per month buys time from a "dedicated" assistant, accessible via phone, e-mail and in person.

For some, these costs are not an impediment. For others, the price they pay to work can be quite high.

"Everything I spend because I'm not home? I'd say all that accounts for 50% of my paycheck," Dinsdale says.


Copyright 2012 CNBC.com



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