Working 9-5

3 Mins

>> How many of us work a classic 9-5 day, Monday to Friday?

Who decided that should be the standard anyway?

We’ve done some digging.

So, back in 1817 when 100-hour weeks over 6 days were common in manufacturing, Welsh mill owner and labour rights activist Robert Owen coined this phrase, “Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.” The idea spread among unions and gained public support over the years.

By the early 20th century, many companies had adopted the 8-hour day. But it was Henry Ford in 1926 who changed the 48-hour week for his assembly line workers by dropping a day. He instantly saw productivity go up.

Word of his success spread, and in 1940 the 40-hour week became law in the US. 

Today, there’s a big 4-day working week trial happening across different industries to test out the theory that working 4 days instead is better for productivity. A few of the businesses are in the UK and are about to begin the experiment. It lasts 6 months, staff are paid the same, and academics will assess and report on the impact.

There’s also an idea that a 5-hour workday is better than 8 hours. Counter-intuitively, some companies in California found sales went up when they reduced operations to just 8am to 1pm.

But many of us have seen 9-5 turn into 8.30-6 with regular overtime on top. And for the many lawyers we know, days can be much, much longer.

That’s despite plenty of studies showing working 50 hours or more has a lousy effect on the person doing those hours (unhealthy eating, insomnia, burnout), and on productivity.

Ultimately, rest and recreation aren’t the opposite of work. They should go alongside it. The perfect mix of each though is still up for debate.

Written by Jason Connolly