The 40-hour work week needs to go

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The Dolly Parton song “Workin’ 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin’” from the 80s sure made it known that working for 40 hours a week was the norm back then. However, times have changed since then, and not in the way we want them to.

In 2014,  work studies showed that most people worked 47 to 50 hours a week. One week is equal to 168 hours. If you take off 48 hours for the weekend, and 8 hours a day for sleep for 7 days, that leaves you with 80 hours during the week for yourself. But don’t forget hygiene, eating, and any other essential daily chores, not to mention any schoolwork students may have.

Despite the long hours of the modern week, it used to be way worse. In the late 1800s, labor workers clocked in 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. A possible reason we have Saturdays off now is that Henry Ford knew that if people had more time off, they could come back to work refreshed and relaxed.

After that, everyone thought the workweek would continue to get shorter. Richard Nixon said the four day work week was inevitable. Economist John Maynard Keynes in 1930 said, “By 2030, we will be working for a little 15 hours a week.”

In the 1970s, people started working more days and for longer hours. In 2013, it was reported that Americans worked four more weeks a year than we did in 1979. This is incredibly unhealthy for business and people. Working overtime and having exhausted employees increases mistakes and accidents by 61 percent, according to an article released by the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Center for Health Policy & Research.

The workforce is literally working employees into ineptitude. Not only are Americans working long and awful hours, but other countries are working fewer hours and making more money. Germans are working 400 hours less a year than Americans, and they’re the strongest economy in Europe. That’s 10 full work weeks.

So what’s the solution to this ridiculous system? I suppose all we can do is educate ourselves and hopefully, sooner rather than later, will be able to work fewer hours.

Not only for our own safety and peace of mind but our own happiness as well. I think we can all safely agree that working less would make us all happier. The only way to change things is to talk to our bosses and stand up for change.

Change won’t happen overnight, but slowly and surely, change will happen.

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