Most people have been working 8 hours a day for so long that we’ve taken it for granted ultimately. Of course, historically, working conditions were much drier in the past. At the dawn of the industrial age in the US, men (because they represented most of the workforce by then), mainly manufacturing employees, would sometimes work for no less than 100 hours a week!
Years later, a man named Robert Owen started a campaign that promoted fewer working hours. The words in his slogan would echo for many generations to come: “Eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.” This principle of living was all well, assuming everyone functioned the same way and needed the same amount of sleep and time to recharge. In reality, we are wired a bit differently.
The 8-hour workday has become the standard in the US starting with 1898, which changed rather radically the way Americans worked. When Henry Ford issued a 40-hour workweek for his workers, he said:
Has the time come to rethink this model? While no magical number of hours would transform us and make us happy forever, a more elegant balance between work and our personal lives is much needed.
First of all, the 8-hour workday has absolutely no basis in science. It’s derived from old norms meant for men working in factories. In other words, it’s outdated. Then, it’s about focusing more on time spent at work, and less on how we spend that time. Maybe we should reconsider our fixation on time and start thinking more in terms of energy well spent.
Moreover, there is increasing research regarding the detrimental effects of our current working schedules on our mental health as well as physical health. Simply put, we are not adapted to sitting in front of a screen for the most part of our day/week/life.
So are we ready to make a shift towards a more efficient, more productive, and healthier alternative? Research in Sweden has demonstrated that 6-hour workdays can boost productivity and provide a more engaging work environment.
Although the idea of working fewer hours has been around in Europe for a while, more specifically after 1989, somehow, businesses have not adopted it yet. It has become apparent that technology innovation is changing work as we know it and at a fast pace.
Here are a few reasons why working less has multiple benefits for companies as well as employees.
This is the number one reason we should get rid of working longer hours. Stress is incredibly prevalent in our society, but things don’t have to be this way.
That’s a staggering number which costs employers big money.
Sadly, there are more and more Americans who think work is the primary source of stress in their lives, according to the American Institute of Stress. Therefore, working less and having more time for us could turn things around a lot.
In today’s day and age, productivity is the one primary goal of businesses because it translates into profit. Although the generally accepted idea is the association of more profit with more work, the reality is different. Instead of focusing on working quantitatively, we should start thinking of how to increase the quality of our work.
Ironically, more time away from work equals enhanced productivity at work. Time spent away from work can prevent burnouts and foster creativity. When we feel we have more time to dedicate to ourselves, we feel more relaxed and satisfied at work, and therefore, ready to yield more positive results.
People who work fewer hours take fewer sick days. Why? Because they don’t get sick as often! Whether it’s because they have less time to worry about emails and deadlines and more to engage in healthy activities in their spare time, working less has a significant impact on one’s health. As a result of this, they have stronger immune systems, so it’s less likely to spread illness to a colleague.
Most importantly, working fewer means we get more time to rest and get more quality sleep, which is essential for our mental well-being.
If the level of stress is highly reduced in a work environment, and the productivity levels are on the rise, then that particular workspace will thrive and keep the employees satisfied and happy. When they’re more content with what they do, they will put more of their energy and skills into turning their experience into an even more fruitful collaboration.
Because they have a better chance to feel replenished, they will commit more to the tasks and get more involved. A positive environment will inevitably make employees feel genuinely more valued, and they will want to give back, so it’s a win-win situation.
Oddly enough, working less could improve our relationships both at the office and at home. How? This has little to do with socializing more at work. In the end, it’s about the environment we all create. When we’re more dedicated to achieving a goal together with our team, then we become more united.
Imagine co-workers who are less stressed and leading more meaningful lives interacting with one another. They could get more creative and even treat work like play – and this will make us bond with each other in different and unexpected ways.
Needless to say, the less time we spend at work, the more time we have to spend with our loved ones. More quality time with our best friend, our kids or our partner will make us feel happier and more fulfilled. And this makes us ready to face any problem that might occur at work.
All things considered, we need a higher balance between work and home life, one that results in more meaningful work and relationships, as well as mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section.