Is the 8 hour work day schedule really productive? Let’s start with a little history.
In the early 1800s, during the start of the industrial revolution, factories were needed to operate 24/7. Hence, it was a norm that workers worked 16-hour work shifts. However, it came to light that such hours were inhumane and unsustainable in the long run, which led to the movement of cutting the long hours down to 8.
In 1926, when Ford Motor Company cut down its workers’ working hours to 8 hours daily without changing the wages, it led to a vast improvement in productivity.
That occurred more than a century ago, and so much has changed since then. With the birth of the internet and transition in the nature of work, is the 8 hour work day schedule still productive?
Unproductive 8-Hour Work Schedule
According to research, we are only really productive for about 3 hours in a day.
Come to think about it, how much time during a 9-5 job do you actually spend on doing actual work? Definitely not 8 hours, and not even close to it. Here are 2 reasons why.
Firstly, distractions are everywhere. According to a study conducted on 1,989 office workers in the UK, these are the most popular unproductive activities in the office:
- Reading news online (1h 5min)
- Using social media (44min)
- Chatting to colleagues about topics unrelated to work (40min)
- Making hot drinks (17min)
Secondly, we also tend to have redundant meetings or meetings that run for an unnecessarily long time. The reason why these happen can be explained by the “Parkinson’s Law“.
The Parkinson’s Law
This adage was coined by the British naval historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson.
The Parkinson’s Law states that a given work expands according to the amount of time we are given to complete it. Read more about the Parkinson’s Law and productivity and efficiency here.
I’ve personally experienced this. I used to be someone who advocated starting a project the moment I’m tasked with one. However, I found that the further away the deadline, the more time I tend to spend on it. For a work that could be easily done in a productive 4-hour sitting, I end up spending 2 hours each week mindlessly doing it. It is not until the final week before the deadline that I start feeling the pressure and feed on the adrenaline to finish the task.
Here is where quality is highly emphasised over quantity. It is important to plan wisely such that we don’t spend an unreasonable amount of time doing something just to console ourselves that we’ve invested a lot in a given task.
Perhaps, an 8-hour workday provides us with such an extensive amount of extra time that we end up wasting them.
6-Hour Work Schedule
What about shortening it to a 6-hour work schedule? In 2015, Sweden introduced a 6-hour work day policy.
Filimundus, a Sweden-based app developer, was one of the companies that was quick to adopt this policy. In an interview with the CEO, Linus Feldt, we learn that this policy is not only possible, but effective.
According to Feldt, all that was needed was to get the workers to spend less time on social media, eliminating distractions and doing away with unnecessary weekly meetings.
Feldt said “my impression now is that it is easier to focus more intensely on the work that needs to be done and you have the stamina to do it and still have energy left when leaving the office”.
This does not come as a surprise. By shortening work hours, workers would feel that they do not have as much time on their hands. Hence, they are more likely to use their time more wisely and focus better on the task at hand.
After all, who wouldn’t be more motivated and energised by shorter working hours?
Check out this article for the five takeaways from Sweden’s six-hour policy that make it possible.
Sweden has shown that a 6-hour workday is not only possible, but effective. However, old habits die hard, and many countries are still adamant on sticking to the typical 9-5 working hours.
Needless to say, the effectiveness of having shorter working hours can still be applied in your individual schedules. Whether you’re studying, working or practising an instrument. Start giving yourselves reasonable deadlines and you might just see that escalation in your productivity level.
It turns out that it is possible to cut down an 8-hour work schedule by just the right amount such that productivity increases. Apart from the element of urgency that comes with a shorter work schedule, it is also morale-lifting, which in turn leads to a boost in productivity.
I hope this article has been helpful and somewhat enlightening!