One day last week at about 4:30pm, I was at work and I felt a little lethargic. However, in the morning I was up and perky and was in optimal performance gear. I came in at 10:00am (late, my usual time is about 8:30) and by 4:30 I was feeling like I needed my day to be done. Is something wrong with me? Do I need vitamins? Or Is something wrong with the 40 hours work week?…According to this model even though I don’t feel optimal I should force my self to work 2 more hours to ensure that I fulfill the 8 hours per day; which for some is minimum, as they often work longer hours.
Where did it all start?
I went to Google … I Google everything. I wanted to find out what was the significance of the number 40. Was it that psychology research proved that within this time frame we perform best?
Let’s deviate for a moment…don’t worry the detour is not too far off our topic route: Have you ever wondered why phone numbers have 7 digits after the area code or why social security numbers, phone numbers etc are grouped..Well in my Psychology class I learnt that studies proved that our short term memory can store between 5 and 9 items (Chunks or individual) at a given time. This was then used to come up with what is called the Miller’s Magic number 7 using a range of -2 or +2.
So back to our 40 hours per week…I am wondering if the 40 hours came about the same way.
I found a great article “Does the 40 hour work week need Overhauling” that explains it all for the American culture. In summary:
- It started with the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938
- This act cut the work week from 60 hours to a maximum 44 per hours week. (Wow can you believe this?)
- Seven years later it was changed to 40 hours per week.
Well quite startling, studies have shown that people are working more than 40 hours per week in America. Employers are hiring fewer people to do more work. The explanation was that they are trying to save on providing health care benefits and pension….oh well trying to save at the risk of employees health….does that make sense?…When people get overworked they are more prone to be ill.
Despite this there are others who are plain workaholics and don’t feel good unless they work more. Others have no family obligations or social life so instead of going home to the walls of their home they consume themselves with work.
The Slacker Phenomenon
What is interesting is that in some working environment putting in quality time for 8 hours and leaving when the time is up is considered slack. Geeky mom’s blog post titled “The-40 hour work week” highlights this phenomenon. She mentions that some people even though they are done with work stay back and put in ‘face’ time to prevent being seen as a slacker.
Balance is important but hard to create. However, my ideal working environment is one that is output based. Give me a project, give me a deadline and I work at my own pace. Geeky Mom’s post asserts the same preference. Click here to read how one IT worker cuts his time from 80-100 hours per week to 40 hours.
Gartner has an article that predicts by 2015 there will be 20 hour work week job descriptions to accommodate skilled high quality workers who need to balance work and social/family life.
- How many hours do you typically work per week?
- What are some ways to balance work and family/social life?
- What do you think about the 2015 prediction?