Waylon Baumgardner

The Eight-Hour Workday

Dr. Travis Bradberry wrote an article on Quartz that discussed problems with the eight-hour workday, notably that it is "outdated" and not "effective".

Dr. Travis Bradberry recently wrote about the problem with the eight-hour work day in his article on Quartz, arguing that an eight-hour workday is not productive, and in fact does more harm than good.

As a director and team leader, I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can make my team happy, and remove obstacles that reduce their productivity (i.e. I take more meetings so they don’t have to). While it is true that organizational policy places constraints on what I can do, I do think about what types of changes I would make with my team if permitted.

One of the biggest changes I would make is greater time flexibility. The work my team does is very tedious, and often requires a lot of mental gymnastics for best results. Forcing them to work for a specific amount of time doesn’t necessarily result in their best performance.

Bradberry cites psychological research done by the Draugiem Group that suggests a specific pattern of work (“work-to-break ratio”) where a pattern of 52 minutes of work followed by 17 minutes of rest often resulted in higher performance. This aligns with other research such as the Pomodoro Technique that suggests humans work best when we can work for X amount of time, and then rest for Y amount of time.

The eight-hour workday often does feel like a relic from the past, from a time when daylight and industrial production meant that employers needed a specific amount of productivity from their employees. As the global workforce has embraced more and more office jobs over the past 100 years, it stands to reason that the eight-hour workday is worth re-evaluating. I think most organizations would trade an arbitrary, eight-hour workday in favor of a schedule that yielded better employee performance. I certainly would with my team.