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Burnout management coach explains why the 8-hour workday is outdated

"We will not make progress without experimentation and data collection. If a company is interested in making a change, they should try it on a trial basis, track results, get feedback, and then try again," she said.

Burnout management coach explains why the 8-hour workday is outdated
Cover Image Source: TikTok/Emily Ballesteros

Who among us hasn't complained at least once about not having a satisfactory work-life balance? Especially now that the pandemic has forced a majority of us to take all our work home, the already blurred line between personal and professional has all but disappeared. This is where Emily Ballesteros, a burnout management coach, comes in. She's taken TikTok by storm with her PSAs about problematic mindsets in the workplace and the popularity of the serious reveals how deeply it has resonated with netizens. In one particularly popular video, Ballesteros explains why the 8-hour workday / 40-hour workweek is tragically outdated and does more harm than good.



 

"Ford established the eight-hour workday in the early 1900s. He established eight hours work, eight hours rest, eight hours sleep, and then start that over again. We went wrong in two places. The first is that Ford worked in manufacturing, which means someone standing somewhere for eight hours doing approximately the same task does yield a certain amount of productivity," she explains in the video. "We have rolled over this eight-hour framework into industries where it just does not make sense. There are so many industries that are project-based where you don't need eight hours, and by just having someone keep themselves busy for eight hours, you're losing so much productivity."



 

"The second reason this framework is tragically outdated is that this was created at a time when wives stayed home to keep a lot of the household together," Ballesteros continues. "Where there were no super commuters, commuting hours each day to get to work. There was no technology of bringing work home with us. This was created by one man, in one industry, 100 years ago and we have not improved it. Every industry needs to do some critical thinking and figure out what framework works best."



 

Speaking to BuzzFeed, Ballesteros revealed that she learned about the evolution of the eight-hour workday in the classes she took to earn her master's degree. "Here is the SparkNotes version of the history of the eight-hour workday: The first law enforcing the eight-hour workday was passed in 1867 in Illinois. It was not widely adopted until President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938. Ford popularized the model in approximately 1926, saying, 'It is high time to rid ourselves of the notion that leisure for workmen is either lost time or a class privilege,'" she said.



 

"If I’d known this video would gain the steam it has, I would have paid more homage to the Labor Union Movements preceding Ford. But, my main message remains: This framework is outdated and should be updated and customized by industry. In most modern, project-based industries, productivity cannot be measured by hours spent working as they could be in industrial and manufacturing work," the burnout management coach added.



 

"We have to get away from believing that 'work ethic' and 'having hustle' means you need to push yourself to exhaustion and be willing to compromise your quality of life for work. Some people live to achieve, they love the hustle, their top values are power, status, respect, money, etc. But many people just work to work. They aren't at work to prove they have work ethic, they're at work because they've got 2.5 kids and a Trader Joe's addiction to support," Ballesteros explained. "I've had a variety of professional positions, some where eight hours was too much time, and some where it wasn't enough. Demands of a role depend on a number of factors, including industry, company culture, leadership expectations, and the predictability and urgency of your day-to-day tasks. This topic calls everyone to think critically about what their role asks of them and how it could be done best rather than how it can be done in this outdated framework."



 

While she does not believe that there is a "one size fits all" solution to this dilemma, Ballesteros does see potential in two popular solutions. "Six-hour days and Result Only Work Environments (ROWE)," she said. "The six-hour workday is already being exercised in a variety of companies and countries. Where this has been done, many employees report greater focus and productivity throughout the workday due to condensed deadlines. ROWE pays employees for the completion of tasks rather than hours spent working. One of the most significant results of these models is the increase in employee satisfaction, which reduces turnover and, in turn, saves the organization time and money."



 

"Many companies already offer summer hours (leaving early on Friday) as a company perk. I believe that this is an easy leap to experimenting with this model. We will not make progress without experimentation and data collection. If a company is interested in making a change, they should try it on a trial basis, track results, get feedback, and then try again," Ballesteros added. "If they hate it, they can always return to the way things are."

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