David Cain wrote an interesting article on the persistence of the 8-hour, 9-to-5 workday in the information age. This quote in particular jumped out at me…
All of America’s well-publicized problems, including obesity, depression, pollution and corruption are what it costs to create and sustain a trillion-dollar economy. For the economy to be “healthy,” America has to remain unhealthy. Healthy, happy people don’t feel like they need much they don’t already have, and that means they don’t buy a lot of junk, don’t need to be entertained as much, and they don’t end up watching a lot of commercials. The culture of the eight-hour workday is big business’ most powerful tool for keeping people in this same dissatisfied state where the answer to every problem is to buy something.
Some of the favorite moments in my life happened when I had more time, less money, and less stuff.
That’s not to say money and stuff aren’t important - just that they’re not the only things that are important. It’s hard to be happy when you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck and are stressed about where the next meal is coming from.
But there’s a happy balance between lots of work and lots of money and no work and no money (or lots of work and no money, as the case may be). I think that in many cases, 5 or 6 hours of work might be enough for a fulfilling day, though most employers or clients probably wouldn’t agree.
I wonder if there’s a way to shift the direction on this, or if the work hard and often culture is too deeply engrained in the American (and increasingly global) culture.
Hat tip to Rian van der Merwe.