The Covid-19 Pandemic has forced us to change our perception of many aspects of everyday life. Loss of work was perhaps the biggest shift for many people with many losing their jobs during the worst of the shutdown.
For those of us lucky enough to go remote, transitioning to full remote working required patience. Joining the video meetings in noisy settings, having internet connection issues, dealing with distractions from pets or children were some of the real challenges remote workers faced. Thankfully, as the pandemic progressed, many started to adjust to the changes of remote working. Zoom meetings became more streamlined, home office spaces were established, and ground rules were set in the house with children and pets while parents worked.
Even though the process became easier and people become used to remote working, many people started to question the 8-hour workday/40-hour workweek. The reasons for this are not clear but quarantine fatigue and technology are some of the potential factors. Ironically these changes resonate with those that caused the 8-hour workday to become law back in 1940. The idea of the 8-hour workweek was first presented to Congress in 1866 thanks to the National Labor Union. The idea didn’t get through Congress but it certainly made an impression among factory laborers that were totaling 12-hour workdays. Support for the 8-hour workday snowballed with The Knights of Labor union group that had at this time had around 700,000 members. By 1898 the United Mine Workers Union won an 8 hour day and by 1905 the 8-hour workday was standard for the printing industry. Bigger companies started implementing the 8-hour workday/40-hour workweek to gain and retain their workforce. 1926 Ford Motors issued a 40-hour working day to gain automobile workers were used to the standard 12 hour day. In defense of his, at the time, controversial 40-hour week decision Henry Ford noted that leisure time was a privilege that should not only belong to the wealthy. By 1940 Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act to mandate and standardize the 40-hour workweek for all American employers. In sum, Americans have only been operating with the 40-hour work for a relatively short period of time. And yet it is clear that there have been much more changes and advancements in technology in the last couple of years than in most of the history of man. The fact that most people can operate their business almost entirely on their cell phones is a clear indication of the level of advancement we’ve reached. Automation and AI technology clear up time and allow us to streamline tasks that 15 years ago would’ve tediously taken us all day. So with that said, can the 40-hour workweek be justified? Is it possible to do work with less?
Some experts, like best-selling author Adam Grant, argue that it can and that “the more complex and creative jobs are, the less it makes sense to pay attention to hours at all.” Creative work requires inspiration that cannot be summed on demand. In addition to this, preparation and commute hours for work are not included in the total 8-hour workday. This depending on the proximity to work, and the time it takes one to prepare for work, can add significant hours to the workday. For remote workers during the quarantine, these extra hours not devoted to commuting or preparing for work were put to good use. So many people started hobbies, passion projects, exercising daily, and sleeping more hours. As businesses start to open up and workers are made to come back to the office, many are resistant to give up what they had during the quarantine. 6-hour workday has been advocated for as an alternative with supporters stating that less time to work actually forces employees to concentrate more. Some also state that thanks to technological advancements that allow for automation and communications to continue during remote working situations, people don’t need to be in an office. So why haven’t more businesses thought about cutting working hours?
One of the biggest counterarguments of cutting hours is just the fact that some work really requires more than 6 hours a day to complete. New or young employees with little experience in a company might be given a disservice with fewer hours to work. Because no worker has the same skill level or working style, this may make it difficult to standardize a shortened work schedule. Additionally, small businesses with fewer resources are usually unable to support shortened workdays. Usually, this is because it would require hiring more workers to work shorter shifts. Lastly, many business owners feel that remote a worker is the less committed they are to being part of company culture. Clearly, this stance is more appropriate to some industries but it remains true that meaningful connections can be made more easily in the physical workplace.
A middle ground must exist for businesses dealing with this demand from their workers and future hires. Businesses, big or small, are going to need to adapt their work and efforts. One option is to offer shorter working days for employees with special needs or circumstances. Parents and older employees with health conditions might be interested in some of these options. Work experience should also be another factor that is taken into account when determining daily and weekly work hours accommodations. Workers with more experience can typically finish their usual tasks quicker than newer employees. Hybrid programs with fluid schedules are perhaps the better and more common adjustments made for workers needing additional flexibility. Hybrid programs allow workers to connect to a business on an intimate level and still give workers some of the work-life balance they desire.
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to change our perception of many aspects of everyday life. Traditional working hours have been disrupted tremendously and many are exploring alternatives to the 8-hour workday. Although cutting hours from 8 to 6 has been proposed, this won’t work for everyone. Hybrid programs can be a great option for businesses looking to One thing is that is certain is that moving forward, considerate businesses will prosper. Employers considering offering a hybrid work schedule should be prepared to give employees the tools needed to carry out their jobs remotely. Gifting employees gear for remote work is a great way to show your employees your support and boost morale. Those looking to buy branded computers accessories, headphones, speakers, USB ports, keyboards, etc. can see our tech products here. As experts in promotional marketing, we know simple gifts can make a big difference especially when it comes to working experience.