Did you know that Congress is debating shortening the official US work week to four days instead of the typical five?
We have our current standard work week in place mostly thanks to Henry Ford. Let’s go back to the year 1922, the start of an industrial boom that saw industrial production climb by 70%. Ford announced he would be instituting a five day, 40-hour work week and workers would receive a daily wage.
This has slowly become a hot topic among corporations and their teams, amplified by the pandemic, when our daily work lives changed dramatically. So the idea that Congress is now on board and ready to push for a standard 32-hour week versus the current 40-hour week seems to be right on time.
For Henry Ford, the schedule he set up made perfect sense. He was certain the factories would stay equally productive and communities would see more engagement. He was certain this new schedule filled the church pews and boosted the economy because more people now had time to spend their hard earned money. Eventually, corporations, seeing the pros of this new schedule, followed suit and here we are today.
Deemed a “No Vacation Nation”, not everyone stays true to the 40-hour workweek. In fact, Americans are known around the world as workaholics who never take holiday. Of course the Fair Labor Standards Act ensured minimum wage and overtime pay, among other things, but even within the past few years we heard stories of tech employees working 60-hours or more and sleeping under their desks.
So is it safe to assume that when left to self-regulation, we often choose the path that is detrimental to our personal well-being? Would regulation through Congress open up our lives more, and as Ford put it, get us out in our communities? Is a 4-day workweek the solution we all need to slow down and find balance?
Going back to the topic of vacation, and perhaps a huge driver for this conversation, there are startling statistics. Americans, even when given vacation time, don’t use it – 54% of Americans, to be exact – with plenty admitting they felt they would be punished or held back from promotions if they did.
Would longer weekends make up for this imbalance in corporate America? Legislators certainly seem to think so but until we reach a final solution, there are things we can all do to find more alignment in our lives. I’m a huge fan of Daily Rituals that support our mental, emotional and physical well-being. Go for a walk outside, meditate for 10-minutes, go for a swim, make time for a meaningful conversation with someone important to you. I think we forget that this leisure time we’re spending is wildly important to our well-being. These aren’t frivolous activities, they are ways we can decompress and disconnect from our busy lives. And when we do, we always come back better, more refreshed, less stressed and happier.