10 Shocking Facts About the 40 Hour Workweek

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A 40-hour workweek and an 8-hour workday are very common in today’s time, especially in many of the hardest working countries. Research reveals that more than 50% of the American workforce clock even more than 40-hours. The history behind the 40-hour workweek can be surprising. Read on to know who invented the 40-hour workweek.

“As far as you get your 8 hours done”.

This is a very common phrase, every one of you must have come across. Monday to Friday, clocking 9 to 5 has become a very common routine and practice.

Some people even end up clocking 60 hours a week. Few individuals feel guilty when they clock less than 40 hours. The 8-hour workday history is surely astounding.

Although there is a generalization of this fact that most working individuals do this out of self-motivation and the urge to excel in their work. The predominant truth is that it is highly demanded from the management or due to the mere fact of peer pressure. 

This is otherwise known as “meeting deadlines”. There must have been several days when you are burning the midnight oil, just because you have a deadline to complete a project/task. 

Several studies reveal that long working hours decrease individual productivity. Ask these questions to yourself.

How many hours do I spend at work each day? How many hours do I spend “working” each day?

Both of these are completely different. So why do companies want employees to work so long? Were people working more than 40 hours in the past decades? And how did the 40-hour working week start in the first place? What is the history of an 8-hour workday? Grab a cup of coffee, it’s just gonna get more interesting!

When and How Did the 40-Hour Working Week Begin?

Are you wondering, who invented the 40-hour workweek? Let’s rewind to the initial stages of the 19th century to know about the 8-hour workday history.

It was during this era when the Industrial Revolution was at its heights. Manufacturing companies, especially in the automobiles sector, were flourishing exponentially, both in America and Europe.

In 1920, Henry Ford, who is the founder of Ford Motor Company, first coined this 40-hour work principle to his employees. 

Big giants like Ford and Volkswagen have begun their tremendous journey. At this time laborers worked for 68 hours a week contributing for more than 10 to 14 hours a day. On average, one would work for at least 48 hours a week.

Shortest working hours in Europe

Building healthy habits in the workplace is getting more highlights than ever. Europe has the shortest working hours in the world.

In the Netherlands in northwestern Europe, employees work approximately 27.5 hours per week on average making it the country with the shortest working hours in the world.

Another country with the shortest working hour in Europe is Germany. The employees in Germany work for 27.75 hours per week on average. Previously they would work for only 21.5 hours per week. However, to achieve better results, the working time had to be increased.

10 Shocking Facts About the 40 Hour Workweek

The reason behind these 40-hour workweek principles will leave you astonished.

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1) 8-hour Workday History

The history of an 8-hour workday dates back to 1867. During this time, the first law in the United States that called for an 8-hour workday was passed in Illinois.

Henry Ford invented the 40-hour workweek. Even though Ford brought down the number of working hours to 40, he didn’t cut the pay for his employees. When he invented the 40-hour workweek, the idea behind this was merely to increase the consumption of goods.

Ford reckoned that people spent more money when they had leisure time. And to his surprise, this technique worked quite well.

“Give them more time, to make them realize they had money to buy stuff. Too many men are afraid of being fools” – Henry Ford

2) Need For Leisure Time

Leisure or also known as free-time is an indispensable ingredient in a growing consumer market. If people keep working, they will not spend the money they earn. So to maintain a decent economy, you need to allocate time to people to find the uses for consumer goods.

3) No Freedom

Above all, the 40-hour work principle does not provide freedom. You are paid sufficiently, but you are trading time for money. And time is more precious than money. The time you dedicate to your self while on an active job is not idealistic or recommended.

You tend to skip most of the hobbies like reading books, meditating, or just pursuing your favorite hobby. Such wholesome activities take time and pay nothing. But a job pays your stomach, probably not your mind.

4) Purchase-Happy Public

The time spent on things that do not directly contribute to your work, such as lunch break, coffee breaks, meetings, discussion, etc. It turns out that the actual “working” time is merely 4 to 5 hours a day.

So why do big companies and businesses promote the 8-hour workday principle? The reason being the result of a purchase-happy public. People always tend to spend more when they are off work.

When your brain has given the most of it for the day, you may end up being seldom productive. It is a common practice that people stay back doing almost nothing, just to compensate the 8-hour a day clock.

5) 40-hour For Less Productivity 

All of the world’s problems, including stress and depression, corruption, and pollution, are what it costs to create and sustain a trillion-dollar economy. For the economy to be “strong”, humans have to remain less productive and unhealthy.

6) Dissatisfied State of Mind

The lack of feeling content and a dissatisfied state of mind is what big giants’ most powerful tool for sustaining the consumption going on.

In today’s working masses’ lives, the answer to every problem is to buy something. This attitude keeps employees at least ambitious outside of work.

7) 40-hour Workweek Forced Timings

Every human brain acts differently. Not everyone is an early bird. So having a 9 to 5 workday does not suit everyone. Studies unfold the fact that 44% of women and 37% of men prefer working at night.

If you are a night owl caught up in a day job, then you are slugging away at your lowest efficiency rate. So forcing a night owl to work early doesn’t necessarily lead to better results.

8) Better Standard of Living

Look back at your standard of living 5 or 10 years from now. In most cases, your standard of living must have significantly raised. 

So it simply means that you earn more to spend more. In the first place, this was the idea when Henry Ford who invented the 40-hour workweek initiative.

It’s quite difficult for us to avoid increasing our standard of living (or at least our rate of spending) every time we get an appraisal.

9) Big Giants Have The Control

Big retail and manufacturing businesses like Walmart wants millions of consumers to maintain a sustainable economy. And such big giants have already succeeded in their mission. Unless you’re a true anomaly, your lifestyle has already been designed by such big giants.

10) Go With The Flow Strategy

The 40-hour workweek is widely misconceived or taken as the “go with the flow” strategy. If you are one of the people who are too serious about clocking in your hours every single day and seldom feel the need to take off from your work.

Then probably you are a victim of the 40-hour workweek principle and its time you rethink. Most full-time working employees often feel uninterested in actual personal development. They are addicted to television, earn a fair salary to pay the bills, and somehow just get by.

Are you one of those?

I am not encouraging you to not work for 8-hours a day or 40-hours a week. But when you are doing it, just stop by and question yourself. ‘

How much are you growing? How much are you contributing and how much are you innovating in your daily job. If you have the answers that make you feel content, then it’s good enough.

I would love to hear your opinions and thoughts about the workweek. Do not hesitate to drop your comments below.

Key Takeaways on 40-hour Work Week

  • Henry Ford’s intention behind the 40-hour workweek idea was merely to increase the consumption of goods by his employees.
  • “Give them more time, to make them realize they had money to buy stuff.”
  • Studies unfold the fact that 44% of women and 37% of men prefer working at night. If you are a night owl caught up in a day job, then you are slugging away at your lowest efficiency rate.
  • Unless you’re a true anomaly, your lifestyle has already been designed by such big giants.
  • The 40-hour work model is old and outdated, it doesn’t suit everyone. Hence, we must come up with new working ways or ideas that bring the best of both worlds – productivity and happiness/freedom.
  • Working remotely or from home is one such idea that can try to ease the situation.
  • Companies are also trying the 6-hour work model and it seems to be more productive than the 8-hour work model.

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