North Texas Daily

40-hour workweeks benefit no one and should end

40-hour workweeks benefit no one and should end

40-hour workweeks benefit no one and should end
November 12
17:00 2020

In America, you live to work and you work until you die. The flag is striped with deep blood and a pool of tears that symbolizes the daily struggle to survive. We are trained to become mindless slaves to capitalism. Making money comes first and your life last. 

What is the point of living if all I do is work until death? This is a common google search here with over two billion search results. They all say variations of the same thing, that life is meaningless and days become blurs as we drift towards a future of hopelessness. Even if there are many more aspects of life to appreciate, it is all too common to fall into a dark depression of a work-consumed life. 

The reality of America is a dark one. To have America be considered to be one of the most developed countries in the world when housing, food, healthcare and education are treated as privileges instead of rights is all too ironic. As shown through the expression of wages, affording to survive means diminishing your free time in order to maximize profit for oneself and the businesses that control us. As we feed capitalism our days and years, many other parts of the world with shortened work weeks look down on us with little sympathy.

America’s economy needs us to work at least 40 hours long. However, full-time workers are actually working an average of 47 hours per week, according to a Gallup report. Half of the full-time workers work more than 40 hours a week and 4 in 10 people report 50-hour workweeks. The standard 9 to 5 has proved to not be as dreadful as we once thought compared to America’s reality. 

Our current system is based on infinite growth and we are stuck in a cycle of work and near poverty. Consumption of goods is increasing as our means for survival are decreasing. Not only does capitalism demand all of our leisure time, but it demands much of our future, meaning that it is not sustainable for human beings to take care of the environment. 

As our market demands the continuous development of efficient ways to produce and manufacture goods, it also demands the devastating use of fossil fuels. The current system hurts people as well as the environment, all in the name of revenue. We are endlessly working toward a future that may not even exist due to excessive carbon emissions. 

By keeping free time limited, businesses can profit more off labor and how much people are willing to pay for convenience and gratification. To keep us in this work cycle, we are deemed lazy and unproductive if we fail to meet the given standards. The system is broken and the development of technology that increases productivity has not benefited the general public. 

Working longer hours leads to various health concerns and is less efficient. We sleep less, eat more, are less alert and take on the physical and emotional stress of labor. Studies show working less also leads to increased productivity. Having more time to spend doing things that make you happy improves your quality of life. This happiness translates into a 12 percent increase in productivity, as unhappy workers are 10 percent less productive. 

Moving away from the 40-hour workweek would move us towards happier, healthier and more productive lives. Countries such as Denmark, Netherlands and France have excelled in molding a true work-life balance. Prioritizing life over work allows them to excel in areas such as environmental quality, civil engagement, education, occupation, social connection and their overall well-being. Denmark, along with numerous other countries, have been reported to have some of the highest levels of life satisfaction in the world. 

The 40-hour workweek is neither good for our health, the environment’s health or business productivity. We have grown out of the era of industrialism and one-income households, and have made too many societal developments to continue to follow our current economic model.  We need to move toward a more positive and empathetic economic model.  We are not zombies built to run on such cycles of destruction. 

For the sake of our well-being, we need to begin considering cutting back our workweek hours significantly and move toward a flexible four-day workweek model. We need to begin putting our well-being first. Life can and should be so much more than working and making money. 

Featured Illustration by Austin Banzon

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Vanessa Delgado

Vanessa Delgado

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