The American Work Life Needs an Overhaul
by Sivan Butler-Rotholz
This past Tuesday was my first day on the job after many months of unemployment. My new employer asked me to come in at noon so that he could prepare for my arrival. I worked six hours Thursday, completed all of my assignments, left refreshed and with plenty of energy, and left very excited about my new job.
Flash forward two days to my second day of work. By the time I’d been working for six hours I was about ready to pull my hair out. The sensation I experienced was one part boredom (I had already done most of my tasks for the day) and nine parts over-exhaustion of the brain. Not to mention shock. I couldn’t believe I still had so many hours left in the day when I had worked so hard and gotten so much accomplished.
You see, my job is a thinking person’s job. It involves research, analysis, and writing. And I truly believe that a person can only do that kind of work for so many hours before they are depleted of their natural resources. My brain is like a fruit, and after six hours all of the juice had been squeezed out. There was no point trying to squeeze out more.
Eight hours of work is too much for a person who has to actively use their brain in their job. And, for that matter, eight hours seems like an awful lot of time to be on your feet waiting tables or working with your hands. I cannot, at the moment, think of a type of work that is conducive to an eight-hour work day.
Six hours is perfect. I believe I’ve read somewhere that studies show that people are only productive at work for four or six hours a day. The rest of the time, I’d bet, is spent checking email and Facebook. If workers are only productive for six hours at work, why not let them work six hour days?
And while I’m at it, how about four-day work weeks? How excited does America get whenever a three-day weekend rolls around? I would assume that the average amount of time wasted by an American worker in a given week easily encompasses sixteen hours. How productive, how happy would we be if instead of wasting those hours in offices, cubicles, and job-sites we had four six-hour work days a week that we could dedicate to pure productivity and then leave behind to live the life we are working so hard to enable?
On top of that I’ll add one more argument: America should take a cue from Europe and take the month of August off. One whole free month to travel the world, write that book you’ve been meaning to write, spend quality time with loved ones. How refreshed would we be when we returned to work? How much better would our quality of life be?
How much more bearable would our work life be if we knew that each and every week we had three-day weekends to look forward to, that we had free time in the evenings or more time to sleep in, and that every summer we’d get a true and hard-earned vacation? The American masses should come together to demand a trial run of this concept. If productivity proves to be the same as it is now, or better, we’ll have earned a quality of life that no amount of money earned working eight-hours a day five-days a week can buy.