In Defense Of The 8-Hour Workday

Noting its disappearance among tech workers, Nathan Pensky advocates a return to form:

Since the “digital revolution” (we really need a better term), many entrepreneurs have adopted irregular hours. A concept sometimes cited in tech entrepreneur circles asserts that people are most productive and creative working according to Ultradian rhythms, in three-hour blocks, with a half-hour rest in between. Another popular concept, pioneered by Hungarian psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, known as “Flow,” describes optimal working conditions as a measure of attention. An interesting aspect of both of these concepts is that they designate how workers are most productive, not necessarily what workers need to be healthy. …

But isn’t the 8-hour day based on an arbitrary number? Perhaps. But the need for limitations on work hours has never more apparent. And it’s not just tech. According to a 2009 survey by the Harvard Business Review, 94 percent of professionals surveyed worked at least 50 hours a week or more. And the 2013 State of the American Workplace report conducted by Gallup found that up to 70 percent of the American workforce feels unengaged (read: demotivated and unsatisfied). Acknowledgement of the importance of the 8-hour workday, or at least some sort of limitation on work time, is not some ploy for lazy people, nor even one for compassion, really. It’s a humanist argument for productivity within the boundaries of reality.