Advertising
Advertising

Are You Working Harder, or Working Smarter?: Looking at the 40 Hour Work Week

Are You Working Harder, or Working Smarter?: Looking at the 40 Hour Work Week

    So many people talk about boosting productivity, and making the most of their 40 hour work weeks. And yet, outside of the United States, not every country adheres to the “standard” 40 hour work week…which begs the question: should we be working harder, or working smarter?

    The History of 40 Hour Work Week (And the 8 Hour Work Day)

    As most people know, the 40 hour work week (and 8 hour day) both have their roots in the industrial revolution, when labor reformists began to push for shorter hours. At the turn of the 19th century, it wasn’t uncommon for some factory workers to be on the job for 16 hours a day, and so the 8 hour work day was quite a relief indeed. While some advances were made during the 1800s by workers who wanted shorter days, the 8 hour work day wasn’t widespread on a global scale until the first half of the 20th century.

    Advertising

    In fact, it wasn’t until the International Labor Organization held its first conference in 1919 that the 8- or 9-hour work day was somewhat firmly established. In 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed into law. This established the five-day, 40-hour work week as the American standard for working hours.

    Criticisms of the 40 Hour Work Week

    MIT’s Eric Rauch noted in his paper “Productivity and the Workweek” that “An average worker needs to work a mere 11 hours per week to produce as much as one working 40 hours in 1950.” Additionally, “polls and surveys have shown that people in countries with the standard of living that the US enjoyed in the 1950s are no less satisfied than today’s Americans.”

    Elsewhere in the US, some states are switching from a 5 day week to a 4 day week. For example, Iowa’s state employees made just such a move in order to cut energy costs, as have Hawaii and Washington state.

    Advertising

    One 2010 study actually proposed that a 21 hour workweek might be the best of all. According to the UK’s New Economics Foundation, “A much shorter working week could help to tackle a range of urgent and closely related problems: overwork, unemployment, over-consumption, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities, and the lack of time to live sustainably, to care for each other, and simply to enjoy life. It would enable many more people to join the workforce and allow for measures to reduce damaging levels of inequality….We’d have more time to be better parents, better citizens, better carers and better neighbours. And we could even become better employees: less stressed, more in control, happier in our jobs and more productive.”

    Compared to Other Countries

    Looking at other countries around the globe, it’s clear to see that the 40 hour work week is anything but standard.

    For example, the average work week in South Korea is 44 hours, while France has a law that states that 35 hours per week is the maximum allowable. European Union member countries have all agreed to cap the maximum hours worked per week to no more than 48. The work week in the Netherlands and Norway is 27 hours long, while workers in Australia and New Zealand work an averages of 33-34 hours per week.

    Advertising

    Conclusion: Work-Life Balance

    More and more, those Americans who are still employed are working longer hours, either to stay in the good graces of their bosses, or because they are overwhelmed by increased workloads due to layoffs. Either way, it seems like many Americans are working long hours to endear themselves to corporate supervisors, without guaranteeing additional job security.

    According to Forbes, “To get ahead, a 70-hour work week is the new standard…Just how bad have things gotten? 1.7 million people consider their jobs and their work hours extreme, thanks to globalization, BlackBerries, corporate expectations and their own Type A personalities.” In fact, some experts say that a BlackBerry can extend your working week by as much as 15 hours.

    That data is backed up by a similar study conducted by the International Labour Organization, which found that “one in five workers around the world – or over 600 million persons – are still working more than 48 hours a week, often merely to make ends meet…an estimated 22 per cent of the global workforce, or 614.2 million workers, are working “excessively” long hours.”

    Advertising

    While many Americans are just happy to have a job, it seems that during a recession, it is even more important to work smarter, not harder. Long hours do not always equal greater productivity, and indeed it seems that working excessive hours can actually diminish productivity and quality…which is a problem that will affect both the worker and the employer equally.

    More by this author

    The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It? The Pomodoro Technique: Is It Right for You to Boost Productivity? How to Diagnose the “Phantom Cursor” Issue on Your Mac Extreme Minimalism: Andrew Hyde and the 15-Item Lifestyle 6 Easy Tips for Living with 100 Items or Less

    Trending in Lifestyle

    1 The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight 2 Why Am I Exhausted? The Real Causes and How to Fix It Forever 3 60 Small Ways to Improve Your Life in the Next 100 Days 4 42 Practical Ways To Improve Yourself 5 How To Be Successful In Life? 13 Tips From The Most Successful People

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on October 16, 2018

    The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

    The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

    It’s well past midnight and you’ve got to get up in less than six hours. You toss and turn all night. Before you know it, another hour passes by and you start panicking.

    If I don’t get to sleep in the next 30 minutes, I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow!”

    One thing is for sure, you’re not alone. Over 70M+ Americans have stated that they don’t get the proper sleep they need at night.[1] So what could possibly be causing this insomnia epidemic?

    Throughout my entrepreneurial journey of building my language learning company, I have experimented and researched dozens of best sleep practices. Some have flopped but a few have dramatically improved the quality of my life and work.

    In this article, I’ll look into the reason why you’re sleep deprived and how to sleep through the night tonight.

    Why you can’t sleep through the night

    The first step to improving anything is getting to the bottom of the root problem. Different studies have shown the reasons why most people cannot sleep well at night.[2] Here are the main ones that the average person faces:

    Advertising

    Stress

    If you’ve ever stayed up at night worrying about something, know that it’s a major sleep inhibitor. When you’re feeling stress, your mind and body becomes more activated, making it incredibly difficult to fall asleep. Even when you do manage to sleep, it won’t be deep enough to help you feel rested the next day.

    Exposure to blue light before sleep time

    We’re exposed to harmful blue light on a daily basis through the use of our digital screens. If you’ve never heard of blue light, it’s part of the visible light spectrum that suppresses melatonin, our sleep hormones. Other harmful effects include digital eye strains and macular cellular damage.

    While daytime exposure to blue light is not very harmful, night time exposure tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime. By keeping your brain alert and suppressing melatonin, your mind is unable to shut down and relax before bedtime.

    Eating close to bedtime

    Eating too late can actually be an issue for many people, especially those who are older than 40. The reason is, eating before laying down increases the chances of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid backflows into the esophagus.

    Another reason not to eat too late is sleep quality. Even if you manage to sleep right after eating, it’s likely that you’ll wake up tired. Instead of letting your body rest during sleep, it has to digest the food that was entered before bedtime.

    Rule of thumb: eat 3-4 hours before bedtime.

    Advertising

    Medical conditions

    In some cases, it could be medical conditions that cause your sleep problems. If you can’t relate yourself to the above reasons or any of these common sleep problem causes, you should visit the doctor.

    The vicious sleep cycle

    The biggest danger to repeating the bad habits mentioned above is the negative cycle that it can take you through. A bad night’s sleep can affect not only your energy but your willpower and decision making skills.

    Here’s an example of a bad sleep pattern:

    You get a bad night’s sleep
    –> You feel tired and stressful throughout the day.
    –> You compensate it with unhealthy habits (for example junk food, skipping exercises, watching Netflix etc.)
    –> You can’t sleep well (again) the next night.

      You can imagine what could happen if this cycle repeats over a longer period of time.

      Advertising

      How to sleep better (throughout the night)

      To help you break the vicious cycle and stop waking up in the middle of the night, I’ll explain to you a list of actionable steps to solve your trouble staying asleep.

      1. Take control over the last 90 minutes of your night

      What you do (or don’t do) before bedtime have significant impact on the quality of your sleep. Many times, it can be the difference between staying up until 4am and sleeping like a baby.

      Here are a few suggestions:

      • Go from light to dark – Darkness stimulates production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Turn off unused light around the house, and think about investing into warm light that you can use in the bedroom before bedtime.
      • Avoid screens (or wear blue light blocking glasses) – Keep the bedroom a technology-free zone as the light from electronic devices can disturb your sleep. If you need to work, wear blue light blocking glasses (also known as computer glasses) throughout or before you sleep to prevent sleep disruption.
      • Find an activity that helps you to wind down  This could be anything that calms you down, and reduces thinking (especially unnecessary stress). Fir example, listening to soothing/good feel music, taking a hot bath, reading or meditating.
      • Keep any electronics you have on the other side of the room or outside the room – One of the most harmful things that can disrupt your sleep is the notifications you get from your smartphones. The simplest way to avoid this is to keep it away from you.
      • Create a bedtime routine – A night routine is a couple of things you do prior to going to bed. By doing these things every night, you’ll have a more restful and high-quality sleep. Learn how to pick up a night routine here: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide to Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

      2. Eat the right nutrients (and avoid the wrong ones)

      What you eat (not just when we eat) plays a critical role in your sleep quality. If you’re ever in doubt of what to eat to improve your sleep, take the following into consideration:

      • Kiwi – This green fruit may be the ultimate pre-bed snack. When volunteers ate two kiwis an hour before hitting the hay, they slept almost a full extra hour. Kiwis are full of vitamins C and E, serotonin and folate—all of which may help you snooze.
      • Soy foods – Foods made with soy such as tofu, miso and edamame, are rich in isoflavones. These compounds increase the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that influences the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
      • Fiber-rich foods – Eating more fiber could be key for better sleep. Eating fiber was associated with more restorative slow-wave sleep—the more you eat, the better you sleep—per a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Fiber prevents blood sugar surges that may lower melatonin. Get a fiber boost from beans, artichokes, bran cereal and quinoa.
      • Salmon – Most fish, especially salmon, halibut and tuna boost vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin— a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness.

      3. Adjust your sleep temperature

      Once you’ve gone through the first 2 recommendations, the last step to experiment with is temperature. According to Sleep.org, the ideal temperature for sleep is 60-67 Farenheit. This may be cooler than what most people are used to, but keep in mind that our body temperature changes once we fall asleep.

      Rule of thumb: sleeping in cooler temperature is better for sleep quality than warmer temperature.

      Advertising

      Find out how to maintain the optimal temperature to sleep better here: How to Sleep Faster with the Best Temperature

      Sleep better form now on

      Congrats on making it to the end of this guide on sleep. If you’re serious about taking the necessary steps in improving your sleep, remember to take it one step at a time.

      I recommend trying just one of the steps mentioned such as taking a hot bath, blocking out blue light at night, or sleeping in cooler temperature. From there, see how it impacts your sleep quality and you can keep doing what works, and throw away what doesn’t.

      As long as you follow these steps cautiously and diligently, I know you’ll see improved results in your sleep!

      Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

      Reference

      Read Next