Posted February 23, 2021 in Podcast

Why Do We Work 8 Hours a Day

Why Do We Work 8 Hours a Day

Have you ever wondered why we work only 8 hours a day? 

Imagine life working beyond the regular 8 hours a day up to 16 hours per day, depriving you of precious time with your loved ones and personal time for relaxation and enjoyment. All you do is work and sleep. 

You may be thinking, “I would never do that,” but that’s the kind of life people lived every day in the past. And we have a lot of people and labor union groups to thank for lobbying in the Senate and Congress for the right amount of work-time every day to allow enough time for rest and recreation, which eventually led to the concept of work-life balance that we are now enjoying today.

If you’re one of those enjoying the benefits of work-life balance, you would appreciate more if you know how it all began. So, let’s travel back in time to uncover the history of the 8-hour workday or the 40 hours-per- week standard log time for workers that allowed us the privilege of leisure and sleep!


Work and Life Before the Work-Life Balance Concept


In the past, it was normal for blue-collar workers to be working anywhere from 72 hours to 100 hours per week. A typical factory worker in England during the Industrial Revolution would work sometimes up to 16 hours a day. And they would do that not just for five days but six days per week. So basically, life before was all work and sleep, without proper balance in work and personal life. 

These long hours of work have a health and social impact, especially on women and children who were also subjected to such work standards. Eventually, these problems caught the attention of labor reformers, and the UK lawmakers agreed to reduce the hours for children and women. The U.S. also tracked the hours of its workers at around the same time and noted that on average workers performed about 100 hours per week, posing some serious safety and health risks.


How the Work-Life Balance Concept Began


Back in the 1920s, Henry Ford came up with an idea of a 5-day work week in response to the growing tension and pressures from various labor union organizations in North America. However, the idea of reducing the weekly work time to increase more personal time actually came from a guy named Robert Owen, who coined the term “work-life balance” about a century earlier in 1817. 

Robert Owen was a Welsh manufacturer and labor activist who believed that work-life balance should consist of 8 hours of work, 8 hours of recreation, and 8 hours of rest. This idea inspired many labor union activists across North America to push the concept and lobby in the U.S. Congress. Eventually, the labor movement continued to gain momentum until the united mine workers union finally won in the early 1900s to reduce the working time to 8 hours per day as a standard for all workers. 

A few years later, Ford Motor Company made a major shift by reducing the weekly working days from 6 to 5 days, establishing the 40-hour workweek schedule for all employees. Soon, it reported that its workers were more productive with the 5-day workweek schedule than they were with the 6-day week schedule. 

By 1940, the United States officially amended the Fair Labor Standards Act and adopted the 40-hour weekly work time for all workers, which started the work-life balance era. Since then, employees have been enjoying work-life balance until technology came with the all-day connectivity convenience, which is great but at the cost of significantly affecting the work-life balance we once enjoyed.


The Evolution of Work-Life Balance to Work-Life Integration


The digital and technology integration at work and in our personal lives threatens the freedom we once enjoyed when the work-life balance had a clear line between office work and personal time. Today, the line has been blurred by gadgets like smartphones and laptops providing the platform that kept us connected all the time, creating an “always-on” culture. It’s difficult nowadays to know where life begins and work ends. Unfortunately, the “always-on” culture is here to stay, and it isn’t going away anytime soon. The non-stop distraction can result in constant stress, anxiety, sleep issues, and sometimes depression. Unless we manage our time properly and define our boundaries, achieving a work-life balance will be a constant struggle.

Perhaps, right now, we should rethink how we balance work and personal life. Otherwise, we will be overwhelmed by the negative effects of the “always-on” culture on our physical and mental health. So, what’s the next step? 

Human Resource specialists are calling the shots for work-life integration instead of balance. They argue that the two can be smoothly integrated by focusing on the gentle pivots instead of the hard boundaries between various aspects of life. It gives you the flexibility to mix work and life in-between times, focusing on productivity instead of fixed working time. Thus, work-life integration emphasizes proper time management in a way that accommodates both your organization and personal life in a time trade-off. In theory, it allows you to bring home some tasks at work and vice-versa. 

Could this be the new norm in the work-life equation? Not really. This doesn’t fully address the issues with the “always-on” culture since it still requires you to be constantly connected, sometimes creating more imbalance than balance.

However, a new concept has now evolved to address the issues associated with work-life balance and integration — it’s called work-life rhythm.


Work-Life Rhythm as the New Work-Life Balance


Work-life rhythm came to light as a result of the studies on ultradian rhythm, showing that our natural biology works at its peak in cycles of 90 to 120 minutes, immediately followed by times of renewal and rest. So, work-life rhythm means that in life there are ebbs and flows, as well as highs and lows. Instead of struggling to make everything in balance, we need to go with the flow. But this also entails having the proper understanding of our peak times or knowing how to prioritize the things that matter most.

There are times when we must speed up, while there are also times when we should slow down. What we must avoid is slowing down during fast times and running fast during downtimes. Instead, run with the flow of life and enjoy everything in between.

Work-life rhythm is a more realistic representation of work-life balance amid the growing “always-on” culture. In this concept, sometimes personal life wins, but other times work-life wins. But there will be a repeating pattern in between work, family time, travels, recreation, and leisure. 

It’s all about seasons. There are seasons to focus more on work, like during business reviews, board meetings, sales rallies, conventions, and corporate events. On the other hand, there are also seasons for personal life like during birthdays, school events, travels, and family outings, allowing you to recharge and renew your energies so you can become more productive.

What matters most is your commitment to the different seasons in life. Commit totally to your work when you are working. But when you are with your family at home, you should also show the same commitment to engage and interact with them and spend quality time with your loved ones.

In work-life rhythm, you may not perfectly balance work and personal life or totally get rid of the “always-on” culture. That culture will always be there, and it’s going to stay for a long while as technology has fully integrated into the lives of many people today. You will have to go with the flow in the digital integration and the seasonal flows of your life to achieve a rhythm where you are more productive and happier at the same time. So, shoot for the rhythm and forget about balance.


Interested in Learning More?


Guys, I hope the short ride to the history of work-life balance and its evolution to work-life integration and eventually to work-life rhythm has given you some insights and lessons on time management to achieve the balance you so desire in life. You don’t have to work harder. Instead, work smarter by finding time to rest and renew your energy, and sharpen your skills and mind. Just go with the flow and know when to run fast and slow down when you should.

I’m in your corner, I’m cheering you on, and I’ll see you on the next episode! Thank you so much for reading. If you found value from this episode, it would mean so much to me if you took a few seconds and wrote a five-star review on Apple Podcasts and shared it with some of your friends. 

Also, please tag me, @kyle_depiesse, on Instagram with a screenshot and your takeaways from this episode! How are you committing to maintaining a work-life rhythm in your life? Let me know on Instagram! 

Don’t forget — I’m rooting for you! Cheers to your success! 

Kyle Depiesse Signature