The 8 hour workday comes from the factory shift.
It takes a worker 10 minutes to build a widget.
In 8 hours they build 48.
In 4 hours they only build 24.
I can understand the logic.
But what of those not making widgets? The lawyers, the consultants, the marketers, the entrepreneurs even.
These fall under what management guru Peter Drucker might have called “Knowledge Workers”- They earn a living by thinking and making good decisions.
Yet good decision making is hard to come by.
What if the answer is working less?
Here are three reasons a shorter workday could be the key:
- Overstimulation– 85% of people check their phone with in 15 mins of waking up. The rest of the day is a blur as we’re bombarded with content. Every idle second is filled with a trip to our phones.
A recent survey found (source missing, you’ll have to trust me) that 36% of “Knowledge Workers” (those paid to think for a living!) spent zero minutes just thinking each day. Zero!
We just do not give ourselves the space.
By cutting the workday to 4 hours we give ourselves the time to think and pursue other interests. Will some people use the extra 4 hours to watch Netflix? Sure. But some won’t and the emphasis will be taken off a constant need to be busy.
- Parkinson’s Law– Work expands to fill the time available.
C. Northcote Parkinson proposed this law in his brilliant book by the same name.
If we have 8 hours to fill in a day, we will fill it! If we don’t feel like doing the important work we’ll busy ourselves with non important work.
What does everyone do all day? They email! (again, no data… I’m sorry)
Every email that gets sent sends the recipients into a frenzy to respond, all the while procrastinating Knowledge Workers are churning new emails into the mix.
By capping the day at 4 hour, people would just get the work done and go home. Why waste time sending emails?
Much of the work we do doesn’t matter. We could not do it and be no worse off.
- Creativity– AI is coming. Automation is here. Repetitive work that requires no thinking will be replaced by machines- it’s happening already.
It’s no longer about finding answer (the machines can do that) but asking the right questions. The final frontier vs the machines is human creativity.
To cultivate creativity we need changes of scenery. We need a clear mind. We need different perspectives.
Who do you think would be more prone to creative thinking:
The worker sat at their computer ping off emails for 8 hours.
Or the worker who worked for 4 hours and spent the afternoon taking a stroll, reading widely, and pursuing a whole host of other interests?
We’re so afraid of change that we rarely stop to ask- “Is there a better way?”.
Just maybe- there is.