Are We Outgrowing The 8-Hour Workday?

Are We Outgrowing The 8-Hour Workday?

Publish Date: 2021-05-03

Author: Victoria Bond

The eight-hour workday: like it or absolutely loathe it, it’s still the most popular working routine in the world of employment. But, over the past few years, we’ve started to see a shift towards more flexible working hours.

And although this change has been undoubtedly expedited by the pandemic and the rise of the gig economy, it does beg the question - have we outgrown the need for an eight-hour workday? 

As evidence would suggest, yes. We have. 


The Origins of the Eight-Hour Workday

The eight-hour workday was introduced as a method of making working conditions more humane for employees during the industrial revolution. During this time, workers would typically work 10-16 hour days to cope with the 24/7 operational demands of running a factory.

Robert Owen, textile manufacturer and philanthropist, coined the slogan, ‘Eight hours' labour, Eight hours' recreation, Eight hours' rest’, to reform these extreme working habits. But the eight-hour workday wasn’t actually mainstream in the US until 1926, when it was mandated by Henry Ford throughout his company’s factories. 

So it turns out that the oh-so familiar 8-hour day isn’t, in fact, based on science or research. It’s merely a slight improvement of far more extreme working conditions, and a labour structure designed specifically for factories. Not so compatible with today’s working world, which is filled with blog writers, graphic designers, and various other creativity-dependent roles, right?


Is It Even Productive? 

It seems foolish to think that one could spend eight hours on one task with unwavering concentration, so why do we expect workers to do just that? 

As research suggests, the average worker is only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes in the working day. This means that almost 100 hours of productivity is lost per month simply by adopting the antiquated ‘9 to 5’ routine - yikes! 

It’s no surprise then that companies who offer their employees flexitime or remote working are significantly more productive than those who don’t. These same companies also reap the benefits of a happier workforce i.e. better employee engagement, reduced turnover and lower absenteeism. 

Without a doubt, the evidence suggests that the eight-hour workday could be hindering the output and staff morale of many modern businesses. So what’s the right answer? How can a business combat the negative implications that the 9 to 5 brings?


There’s No ‘One-Size-Fits-All’ Answer

It’s worth remembering that no two people have the exact same daily structure, and so trying to implement a working routine to suit everyone is impossible. Giving your team a little freedom - or at least wiggle room - with regards to when they work can really do wonders. Offering remote working once a week, or giving your team frequent breaks can be super helpful if you don’t want to wave goodbye to the 9 to 5 just yet. 

At the end of the day, the happiest employee is the most productive employee. So keep morale high and the rest will follow - even if that means ditching the eight-hour workday altogether! 


If you’re interested in finding out more about creating an awesome workplace for your team, visit our website.

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