This Woman’s Explainer On Why The 8-Hour Workday Is Tragically Outdated Is Going Viral
“The 40-hour work week was created by one man, in one industry, 100 years ago and we have not improved it.”
Emily Ballesteros is a burnout management coach who helps busy professionals create work-life balance so that they have time and energy to enjoy their lives.
Recently, in an effort to spread awareness about problematic mindsets in the workplace, Emily made this TikTok:
Her video was viewed by over half a million people, and many commenters gave her the opportunity to address her beliefs surrounding the 40-hour work week. That video now has over 1.5 million views:
Emily explains, “Ford established the eight-hour workday in the early 1900s. He established eight hours work, eight hours rest, eight hours sleep, and then start that over again. We went wrong in two places. The first is that Ford worked in manufacturing, which means someone standing somewhere for eight hours doing approximately the same task does yield a certain amount of productivity. We have rolled over this eight-hour framework into industries where it just does not make sense. There are so many industries that are project-based where you don’t need eight hours, and by just having someone keep themselves busy for eight hours, you’re losing so much productivity.”
She continues, “The second reason this framework is tragically outdated is that this was created at a time when wives stayed home to keep a lot of the household together. Where there were no super commuters, commuting hours each day to get to work. There was no technology of bringing work home with us. This was created by one man, in one industry, 100 years ago and we have not improved it. Every industry needs to do some critical thinking and figure out what framework works best.”
BuzzFeed spoke to Emily, who said she learned about the evolution of the eight-hour workday in the classes she took to earn her master’s degree. “Here is the SparkNotes version of the history of the eight-hour work day: The first law enforcing the eight-hour workday was passed in 1867 in Illinois. It was not widely adopted until President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938. Ford popularized the model in approximately 1926, saying, ‘It is high time to rid ourselves of the notion that leisure for workmen is either lost time or a class privilege.'”
“We have to get away from believing that ‘work ethic’ and ‘having hustle’ means you need to push yourself to exhaustion and be willing to compromise your quality of life for work. Some people live to achieve, they love the hustle, their top values are power, status, respect, money, etc. But many people just work to work. They aren’t at work to prove they have work ethic, they’re at work because they’ve got 2.5 kids and a Trader Joe’s addiction to support,” she said.
Emily does not believe there is a “one size fits all” solution. “I do, however, believe there are two popular solutions: six-hour days and Result Only Work Environments (ROWE). The six-hour workday is already being exercised in a variety of companies and countries. Where this has been done, many employees report greater focus and productivity throughout the workday due to condensed deadlines. ROWE pays employees for the completion of tasks rather than hours spent working. One of the most significant results of these models is the increase in employee satisfaction, which reduces turnover and, in turn, saves the organization time and money,” she explained.
A popular suggestion among the commenters in her video was having an eight-hour, four-day work week. “Many companies already offer summer hours (leaving early on Friday) as a company perk. I believe that this is an easy leap to experimenting with this model. We will not make progress without experimentation and data collection. If a company is interested in making a change, they should try it on a trial basis, track results, get feedback, and then try again. If they hate it, they can always return to the way things are,” said Emily.
In addition, she wants people to realize that there are three different types of burnout: volume, social, and boredom.
Emily is hopeful that more companies will start experimenting and taking steps to figure out what type of workday works best for their industry. “I had crippling burnout while working full-time, being in graduate school full-time, coaching part-time, commuting two to three hours per day, and spending all of my spare time completing graduate work. I finally reached a breaking point and decided I would come up with a comprehensive solution myself since I couldn’t find one anywhere else,” she said, explaining why she chose a career as a burnout coach.