Let’s reconsider our typical work week, day in 2021— because we all need it


Valley Sentinel

For most people, the start of this week was the first day back to a regular work schedule following the winter holidays, and despite the holidays looking a little different this year, going back to work is never easy. 

A recent Instagram poll from Valley Sentinel asked if people were ready to go back to work after the holidays, 83% of responders said no, with 17% saying yes. 

There’s a simple explanation for that: The normalized American work week and work day sucks. 

It’s no secret that many customs of the US are anomalies to many European countries and our work structure is definitely one of them. We all know that work obligations are much more relaxed in other countries, some even having upwards of two hours for lunch and an afternoon siesta, some only having a four day work week and others allowing an entire month off for vacation, along with more parental leave time.  

Sounds crazy right? But it’s actually not, many recent studies have shown that employees actually only complete about four hours of actual, productive work per day. The truth is, our 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday work week was created in the early 20th century at the height of the industrial revolution to follow factory schedules. It’s truly outdated, and really doesn’t work for every profession. 

Following the idea that we actually only produce four hours of work per day, think of your job. Think about how much work you actually complete each day, and how you feel throughout your day. We all have experienced that 2 p.m. after lunch slump where we have to keep working but we’re ready to go home, or need a triple shot of espresso to crawl our way to 5 p.m., there is no way we are being productive, money earning employees when we hit that wall. 

Recent studies have found that if you are naturally a night owl, but your job requires you to be bright eyed and bushy tailed early in the day on the weekdays but you’re still sleeping in on the weekends, you’re literally taking years off your life. 

Morning birds can also be affected by our typical work day, they like to be super productive first thing in the morning and throughout the day, but by 5 p.m. they’re probably ready to start winding down for the evening and enjoying some time to themselves or their families. 

It seems like the typical work week or day that we are accustomed to doesn’t even really work for most of our workforce, so why are we still keeping it? Do any of us really know?

A shorter work day or shorter work week would allow for our workforce to have more time for rest, which would allow them to be more engaged and productive for the times they are working. 

It would also create waves for our communities, shortening a work day or work week would give people more time to invest in their communities, whether that’s in working on community development or supporting more small businesses, people would have time to spend personal time where they live, instead of simply sleeping and eating there before going to work day in and day out. 

It would also allow for more time to invest in our community government, if our workforce had more time on its hands, perhaps people would have more time to become involved with local government or those who are already involved would have more time to invest in going above and beyond. 

Locally, start conversations with employees about the hours they are required to be in the office (or in the days of working from home, the hours they have to be logged on or zooming) if you own a local shop or restaurant, consider the shifts each employee has to work, or considering working with their preferred schedule if they are a morning or night person. Be kind when an employee needs sick, vacation or leave time. 

We weren’t put on earth to work, we were put on here to live.