If you find yourself dreading the 8-hour-day in front of you every monday morning, it might surprise you to learn that there was a time when working days could range between 10-16 hours bringing the working week up to a total of at least 50 hours and in some cases, doubling the working week so many modern workers have come to loathe. If the thought makes you shudder, you’re not alone.
During this time – the Industrial Revolution – there were plenty of people all over the world fighting for shorter working days. In 1817 there were huge pushes throughout Britain to shorten the working day to eight hours. It took until 1915, in Uruguay, for the changes to be officially made. That’s right, it took around 100 years for change to happen … so does that mean that now, over 100 years later, we’re ready for a shake up in our working week?
There are plenty of people out there who think we are overdue for an overhaul; Tim Ferriss is renowned for pushing his idea of the ‘4 hour work week’, while Denmark has the lowest average working week of all the developed countries in the world – they are at the forefront of improving working conditions, they even have a word for workplace happiness: arbejdsgloede. It might be difficult to pronounce but it’s not so difficult an idea.
A survey conducted by Vouchercloud found that even if we’re comfortable with the idea of our 8 hour days, we’re not using the time productively at all, with most UK office workers only working productively for a total of 2 hours and 53 minutes. 79% of respondents admitted that they were not productive through the entire working day – this lack of productivity is taking a huge toll on businesses all over the world. It’s clear that change is on the horizon – cutting down the work week to a measly 4 hours might not be the way to go, but reducing each day down to 5 or 6 hours may actually push employees to their peak productivity levels while simultaneously improving work/life balance the world over.
Why does work/life balance matter?
8 hours seems balanced – after all, it gives you 8 hours to work, 8 hours to sleep and 8 hours to engage with your family, friends and leisure activities every day. It seems ideal to have your time split evenly but this system doesn’t take into account commuting and all those other little things that your day can fill up with before you even get to engaging in the activities you want to be involved in.
A shorter working day gives employees more time to rest and more time to get involved in fulfilling activities, resulting in focused and fulfilled employees, ready to be productive in their shorter working hours. Not only that but when employees have the flexibility to invest in their family, friends and personal life it’s easier for them to trust and respect their employers. Everyone wants more time to do the things they like doing, so it’s natural for people to be happier at work when they get that opportunity.
At the end of the day, workers aren’t productive for 8 hours everyday anyway – so it makes sense to reduce the daily working hours so that the time can be reclaimed to contribute to lower stress levels, happier employees and well-rested workers. More than 100 years after the introduction of the 8 hour day, it’s time to shake up our work days.