Women sitting next to each other

The Future Of Working 40 Hours A Week – What Can We Expect


by George Sordia, January 10, 2022

A proper work-life balance is one of the top priorities for employees, especially for millennials and young workers entering the workforce. 

In order to remain relevant, companies need to place a strong emphasis on recruiting the best candidates and retaining them so that they grow and succeed in the market together. 

An 8 hour a day work schedule is a great way to demonstrate that a company values the overall well-being of its employees, and greatly increases the chances that the most qualified job applicants want to work there.

But in the light of recent COVID-19 events, the question that has imposed itself as important is: 

Can the 40 hour week really do it?

How Did We Get The 8-Hour Work Day?

The eight-hour day movement or 40-hour week movement was for a long time the shortest work time ever accepted.

It actually represents a social movement that was pushed forward to regulate the length of a working day, and prevent excesses and abuses of the workforce, especially since child labor was also very common at the time.

Coworkers sitting with masks on

An eight-hour workday idea originated in 16th century Spain, but the modern movement dates back to the British Industrial Revolution era.

When industrial production was largely transforming working life by factories, the working day ranged from 10 to 16 hours a day, and the workweek was typically six days long.

The first country that introduced the 8-hour workday by law was Spain in 1593. Surprisingly enough for the time, in 1917, the Soviet Union followed its steps.

What’s The Problem With The Current Timetable?

Well, Covid

Or even “better” – all the future excesses like the one we are struggling with right now.

The COVID-19 pandemic radically changed the daily reality of work for millions of people. The rapid adoption of remote work arrangements for many companies changed fundamental aspects of our feasible work structure.

Today, almost 80% of office workers have already publicly acknowledged that a 4-day work week would have many advantages, especially thinking ahead to when it is safe to transition into a post-COVID-19 world.

Cleaning the table

What Can We Expect For The Work Week?

Trials of a four-day week were accepted as an “overwhelming success” leading to many workers moving to shorter hours.

But these trials are not some newsies.

The 4-day-long-work-week experiments, actively took place between 2015 and 2019, in which workers were paid the same amount for shorter hours.

As a result, productivity remained the same and even improved in the majority of workplaces and coworking spaces.

A number of these innovative trials are now being run across the world, with a special mention to Europe (Spain and Iceland), but also New Zealand and Australia.

The trials were usually run by the national government, and eventually included more than 2,500 workers, which amounts to about 1% of every country’s working population.

A range of workplaces that took part were preschools, offices, social service providers, and hospitals.

How Working Fewer Days A Week Can Benefit (Or Not?)

It is believed that people are happier when they work less. 

A 2019 survey found that the 5 countries ranked highest in the world for overall happiness worked fewer hours than normal. 

This does not mean that people are most carefree without jobs or responsibilities, or that many of us don’t take pleasure doing our jobs and taking care of our careers

On the contrary. Career success is a huge source of pride for lots of people, and there is no reason that this should (dramatically) change within a 4-day workweek. 

People are happiest when they feel like they have a proper work-life balance, meaning they have the time and energy to develop both their personal and professional lives without sacrificing either.

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