It’s time for shorter work weeks

Work Week illustration
illustration by Eduardo Velasquez / el Don

As employees we shouldn’t start our days by having a fight with ourselves just to get to work. 40 hour weeks were popularized in the 1920’s  to decrease the average person’s workload. The truth is that this idea is not only outdated but also inefficient. It’s time for another workweek reduction. 

With how inconsistent scheduling is for the average worker, 40-hour work weeks can feel more like 50-60 hours. Even when we’re not on the schedule, employers will tell us we’re required to leave our availability open for them. Simply put, even when we’re not on the clock our time still belongs to them. 

Any time spent outside of work for some of us is spent doing more work like schooling or simple chores. Giving workers more free time will allow us to recharge ourselves and we’ll be better rested going into work the next day. 

Even a simple reduction of five hours can help workers prevent burnout without negatively  affecting their overall performance. A study conducted by Autonomy, an independent research organization,  took a sample of around 2,500 workers in Iceland and reduced the 40 hour work week by just 5 hours.  Workers who worked 35 hours were more productive and got the same amount of work done as their full time counterparts.

A five hour reduction may not seem like a lot, but I know that when I get to go home an hour earlier I feel less stressed and more willing to go into work. Every shift starts two hours before I even clock in with a fight just to get out of bed.

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But of course the idea of working less than 40 hours sounds scary to most of us due to the fact that we already make so little. An increase to the minimum wage so that we actually get paid a livable wage will open the door shorter work weeks. 

I think it’s time Americans stop entertaining the idea that we simply need to work more, or harder, and face the fact that our long hours are killing us.

Eduardo Velasquez
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1 Comment

  • You’re point about how your shift actually starts with the struggle of getting out of bed is resonating. I feel like even my days off are preoccupied with this compulsion to productively use my “free” hours because I only have so few!!!

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