The 8-hour workday is near obsolete, in this era of 24/7 connectivity. It’s worth remembering why it was invented and standardized in the first place.
The U.S. government started tracking workers’ hours in 1890 – and discovered that the average full-time manufacturing employee was working 100 hours per week. This revelation triggered the movement for more humane working hours – and, in 1926, Henry Ford instituted the 8-hour day and the 40-hour workweek at Ford Motor Company.
Today, the drive for quick results too often causes us to simply work more and more, and, consequently, spend less time on family, recreation, and restorative down time.
The 8-hour workday does have some merits – it may be more regimented, but the parameters allow confidence that when one’s work is done at the end of the business day, what remains is your time.
In my experience, I’ve seen people who feel the need (unnecessarily) to be tethered to their jobs at all times via electronic devices. Yes, cardiovascular surgeons do need to be available when on call, but few of us really have earth-shattering, life-saving jobs for which we need such immediate accessibility.
There are, however, two kinds of 9 to 5 jobs. And sometimes, you can choose which one you make yours.
There is the 9 to 5 job where you are just a cog in the machine. You keep your head down, you do the minimal, and you escape at 4:59 p.m. These jobs – and those who fill them - are how the phrase “watching the clock” got coined.
Then, there is the 9 to 5 job to which the worker brings genuine commitment and focus, taking risks, working with passionate energy. If you really care about the work you are doing, most of the time this is a pleasure and a privilege. And the time spent is more than enough. Because you aren’t aiming for simply more, but deeper, better work.
Don’t be afraid to rock the boat – real boats do rock. Do your deepest, most committed work, and you’ve earned that time off.
If you’ve been seeing your work through the cog-lens, try changing your focus and work on something you are really passionate about – you might just find that enormously liberating, as well as galvanizing to your work energy.
It’s hard to maintain a deep-work mindset throughout the day (which is why working on one task at a time and taking small breaks are both vital).
How do you keep your energy, your commitment, and your passion for your work fresh?
Please click here to email me directly – I would love to know your thoughts.
Until next Wednesday –