Is there a scientific reasoning behind 8-hour shifts?
Compared to the times of the Industrial Revolution, 40 hours a week seems like a piece of cake. Labor rights activist Robert Owen broke up the 24-hour day into 3 segments. He felt people should have eight hours of work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours of rest.
Henry Ford, who used to have employees work six days a week, was the first to take away one day of work and noticed a big difference in his employees. He saw that his employees were more productive during the 40-hour workweek as opposed to the 48-hour workweek. This inspired the change in the workforce to work 40 hours a week.
Psychologists have been studying this concept for years to see if 40 hours is working. They noticed that people who work overtime on a regular basis are less healthy than those who don’t. People are more likely to make mistakes after the 8th hour of work because they are tired and more careless. People who routinely work extended hours are less productive than those who work their 40 hours a week.
This 40 hour a week work schedule was established during a time of manufacturing. In today’s society, we have more access to technology and regularly bring work home with us. It is easy to check work email from home and it is stated that people tend to work an extra 6-7 hours outside of the office.
Another big difference from the olden days is that most households were comprised of just one income. Nowadays, most families are two income households and raising a family has become more of a challenge. With that being said, 40 hours a week may be too much for families.
There is no perfectly set number that research clearly shows works. They do prove that working over 50 hours is a negative, but is 40 the answer in today’s society? It may come down to each person’s profession and how much work needs to be accomplished in a day and what can be done at home.