The Sweet Allure of the Six-Hour Workday

A recent piece on the length of the average working week over at Fast Company caught my eye this week. Put in a nutshell, the article makes the case that there is a lot to be said for moving towards a six-hour workday in terms of productivity. Recent trials in Sweden suggest it might actually boost output.

Productivity, particularly in the context of America, has long been a bugbear of mine. If we are being honest with ourselves, the eight-hour workday has long been a fiction in our country. The average American worker spends 47 hours a week on the clock and in many, many industries that number is substantially higher.

Some studies put the amount of Americans holding down a second job at 5% but, based purely on anecdotal evidence, that figure also seems suspiciously low to me.

There’s never been any doubt about ordinary Americans’ capacity for hard work but the question has to be raised – how much are we actually getting done?

The OECD’s global breakdown of average annual hours actually worked per worker makes for instructive reading. America clocks in at number 17 on that list but some of the countries underneath it are interesting.

Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Germany – these are not struggling, second-class economies or backward countries. Their political and social systems may well be different than ours but those nations are ticking along just fine in most regards and enjoying perks like 30 days of paid holidays while they do it.

I’m not necessarily advocating a six-hour day but I do think it’s high time America took stock of how much productive output we’re actually generating for all those hours we’re putting in and whether that time could be more sensibly managed.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the matter. We all know we’re working hard but could we be working smarter? Get in touch via the comments and let me know.

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