Burnout management coach explains why traditional eight-hour workdays ‘make no sense’ in viral video – and reveals why the ‘tragically outdated’ standard leads to LESS productivity
- In a viral TikTok video, Emily Ballesteros from Chicago explains why the eight-hour workday is not the most productive model
- The 40-hour work week was introduced in Ford factories in 1926 – and Emily notes that while it makes sense in manufacturing, it doesn’t in other industries
- She points out how the world has changed since then, with fewer housewives, more long commutes, and technology that brings work home
- Making people just ‘keep themselves busy’ for eight hours results in a loss of productivity
- Several studies back up her argument, and she suggests that six-hour workdays or paying for project completion would likely yield better results
A burnout management coach says that the eight-hour workday — and 40-hour work week — is not just outdated, but actually makes many workers less productive.
Emily Ballesteros, who helps people find a better work-life balance and is based in Chicago, is going viral for an eye-opening TikTok video in which she explains the origin of the 40-hour work week and why it’s a mistake that every industry uses it as the standard.
Her video been viewed 1.6 million times in two weeks, and has commenters begging for a better way.
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No kidding! A burnout management coach says that the eight-hour workday — and 40-hour work week — is not just outdated, but actually makes many workers less productive
Truth: Emily Ballesteros is going viral for an eye-opening TikTok video in which she explains the origin of the 40-hour work week
Emily shares quite a lot of content about burnout, but her video from November 6 has taken off after she responded to a commenter who complained that 40-hour work weeks are too long.
‘I will literally take every opportunity I can to address the 40-hour work week,’ she responds, before delving into its origins.
‘Ford established the eight-hour workday in the early, early 1900s,’ she says. ‘He established eight hours work, eight hours rest, eight hours sleep, and then start that over again.’
The Ford Company was, in fact, one of the first companies to adopt a five-day, 40-hour work week for its factories in May 1926, and extended it to office workers the next year.
The change was from a six-day week, with an aim of giving workers more leisure time — not just to be nice, but to make them more productive for the time they were on the clock.
Origins: The Ford Company was one of the first companies to adopt a five-day, 40-hour work week for its factories in May 1926, as a way to make people more productive
Time to adapt! But Emily points out that what works for manufacturing doesn’t work in other industries, and the world had changed quite a bit since the standard was introduced
She says: many industries ‘are project-based where you don’t need eight hours, and just having someone keep themselves busy for eight hours, you’re losing so much productivity’
But while that seems to have worked quite well in factories, it wasn’t a perfect one-size-fits-all approach.
‘We went wrong in two places,’ Emily explains. ‘The first is that Ford worked in manufacturing, which mean somebody standing somewhere four eight hours doing approximately the same task does yield a certain amount of productivity.
‘We rolled over this eight-hour framework into industries where it just does not make sense,’ she goes on.
‘There are so many industries that are project-based where you don’t need eight hours, and just having someone keep themselves busy for eight hours, you’re losing so much productivity.’
While different jobs have different requirements, we are also living in a different world now than the workforce a century ago.
‘The second reason this framework is tragically outdated is that this was created in a time where wives stayed home to keep a lot of the house together, where there were no “super commuters” commuting hours each day to get to work. There as no technology bringing work home with us,’ Emily says.
Time for change! ‘Every industry needs to do some critical thinking and figure out what framework works best for them,’ she says
‘This framework was created by one man in one industry 100 years ago and we have not improved it.
‘Every industry needs to do some critical thinking and figure out what framework works best for them,’ she adds.
So what, exactly, is to be done about it? In a follow-up video, Emily said that one of the ‘ultimate goals’ for a company should be to ‘improve employee satisfaction and work-life balance to reduce turnover because hiring and training is very expensive.’
To that end, she suggests they pay for completion of tasks instead of per hour.
She also notes that some companies have tried a six-hour workday model and found it to produce higher productivity.
The burnout management coach has plenty of science on her side, and dozens of thinkpieces have been written on the subject.
What’s the solution? Emily said companies should want to increase employee satisfaction in order to reduce turnover
Bright ideas! She suggests paying for project completion, not time, or switching to shorter workdays
Research by two Swedish technology startups in 2015 showed that energy levels drastically increased in the office when hours were reduced.
Stockholm-based app developer Filimindus switched to a six-hour workday in 2014, and its CEO, Linus Feldt, said it provided employees with better stamina.
He told Fast Company: ‘I think the eight-hour workday is not as effective as one would think. To stay focused on a specific work task for eight hours is a huge challenge.
‘In order to cope, we mix in things and pauses to make the workday more endurable. At the same time we are finding it hard to manage our private life outside of work.
‘We want to spend more time with out families, we want to learn new things or exercise more. I wanted to see if there could be a way to mix these things.
‘My impression now is that it is easier to focus more intensely on the work that needs to be done and you have the stamina to do it and still have energy left when leaving the office.’
Technology startup Brath also made the move three years earlier, and said that one of the biggest advantages is that it helps them hire and keep employees.
Writing in his blog post, the CEO said: ‘We also believe that once you’ve gotten used to having time for the family, picking up the kids at day care, spending time training for a race or simply just cooking good food at home, you don’t want to lose that again.
‘We believe that this is a good reason to stay with us and not only because of the actual impact longer hours would make in your life but for the reason behind our shorter days… We actually care about our employees.’