Why You Should Not Work a 40-Hour Work Week

Warning: Due to the current situation, many people are working more than 40 hours as they want to save up and stabilize their living conditions. Please be mindful that this article may be triggering to those who need to work more than 40-hours in order to live comfortably in their location.

We’ve always been waiting for that one particular job, which may lead us to a fulfilling career. Many of you may know which job I’m talking about. 

Hint, it’s the one where you work a 40-hour week, usually from the time between 9 am to 5 pm, sit behind a desk, and work to complete your tasks. 

We’ve all been dreaming for that moment because the moment we accept the offer, we hit the jackpot. Or rather, that’s what it feels like. 

The idea of the 40-hour work week was coined by Robert Owen in 1817 during the Industrial Revolution. The phrase, “Eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest” was ideal amongst those who worked in factories. At this time, individuals worked nearly 100-hours a week for manufacturers. 

After years of activism, the National Labour Union of the United States passed a law mandating the eight-hour workday in 1866. However, it wasn’t until 1938, almost six decades later, when Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act. And that act led us to equate the idea of full-time employment to a 40-hour work week. 

But with the pandemic, and current events, many of us are wondering if 40-hours is the right amount. In Europe, countries such as the United Kingdom, France, and Sweden, have questioned this idea by decreasing the number of hours worked in a week, and employees reported to be much more energized, and productive. 

Why You Should Not Work a 40-Hour Work Week

So, how do you know if you’re ready to cut down your hours? Listed below may be some reasons why you may want to work less than 40 hours: 

1) You experience a lot of burnout in the type of work you do: 

Every worker has experienced the feeling of unmotivation, irritability, and fatigue during or after work hours at some point of their career. Burnout is on the rise, as reportedly 52% of workers were experiencing burnout in 2021.

Although many have also reported that it may have been due to the pandemic, a survey reported that around 43% of workers were feeling burnt out during the pre-pandemic times.

Many individuals may suggest that the best solution is to take a few mental health breaks, but if this is happening very often, it may be best to rework the hours with your supervisor. 

2) You want to try out more hobbies. 

Have you ever had the feeling whenever you went to work, finished your shift, commuted home, and slept on the couch?

You wonder what it’s like having time for different hobbies, but because the 40-hour work week is eating up most of your time, it can be difficult trying to pursue and schedule new activities.

It’s even difficult for many to catch up on sleep during the weekend! As a result, working the whole 40-hour may not be an ideal choice as you may need more leniency in your schedule. 

3) You want to spend more time with family.

Sometimes, a 40-hour work week can be draining to the point where you may not be able to visit your family often. Outside of holidays and vacations, it can be difficult scheduling family reunions when you have a bunch of tasks to complete and are feeling extremely overwhelmed. 

4) When you want to pursue a side hustle

If the 40-hour work week is already tiring, starting a side hustle along with the 40-hours will be emotionally exhausting. If you want to pursue the side hustle, it’s best to evaluate your options and the commitment.

For example, ask yourself how much time you may need to commit to the activity. Once you figure the number, you can then plan accordingly. 

5) When you want to travel more around your region. 

It’s difficult finding the time to travel during the weekday, when you’re working practically the whole time and settling in a routine.

However, if you want to travel more around your region, you can take a quick brisk walk after your shift. If this is the case, it may be better to work less hours in order to allow yourself more leeway: You can plan trips flexibly and be energized when coming back to work. 

6) When you want more flexibility in your work.

Sometimes, sticking to one job and completing repetitive tasks for 40 hours of the week may be unideal for the person looking for a more dynamic role. If you want to experience new jobs and try out different fields, it may be best to work more flexible hours. 

7) When you want more time for rest. 

Sometimes, it’s impossible to get the correct amount of rest, especially when you’re constantly being called in to work overtime. As a result, it may be better to work less hours and speak about your current situation with the scheduling team in order to find a schedule that suits your needs. 

8) When you want more work-life balance.

Working 40-hours a week may be a lot in terms of being able to handle work and balance your life outside of work. When you’re at work the whole morning and most of the afternoon, it may be difficult to keep on track with current events and tasks. Therefore, it may be better to work less than 40-hours if there are a lot of tasks on your bucket list. 

9) When you want to go back to school.

Working full-time and juggling academic coursework may not be the best combination: You’ll perhaps spend days and weeks preparing for a test or an assignment. If you find out that it may be too much to handle, it is best to limit those work hours to ensure that you are understanding the material. 

10) When you to experiment with a different schedule.

If your work allows, you can try to adjust your work schedule to see what suits you the best. For example, for one week, you can try to work 35 hours in the evenings compared to the whole 40 hours. In order to do this, the 40-hour work week that is inflexible may not work the best in regards to the situation. 

Other Reasons Why As Conducted by Research: 

Other than your own reasons, a lot of researchers have also conducted the effects of the 40-hour work week. Some of their findings stated that the 40-hour work week may not be as productive and efficient as many people thought it would be. Here are some other reasons why: 

11) Not a healthy schedule.

According to a lot of researchers, 40-hours a week is unhealthy for workers. In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that over 745,000 people died from stroke and other heart diseases due to working 55 hours a week. Although this number may be more than 40-hours, salaried workers continue to work on average 49 hours a week. 

12) An Unproductive schedule. 

Many studies proved that working 40-hours a week, let alone 8-hours a day, is an unproductive schedule for multiple workers. For example, during the eight-hour shift, perhaps only four of those hours for many workers, are “productive hours,” whereas for the other four hours, many people become less alert. 

13) Exhaustion is on the rise.

According to a report conducted by McKinsey and Company, around 42 percent of women and 32 percent of men are experiencing burnout from their jobs. These statistics continue to be on the rise due to the current climate. 

14) An old-fashioned concept.

The 40-hour work week was originally invented for a household where one member (usually the male) worked and the other member took care of the family. However, this concept has now changed as both members work to provide for the family. In order to move towards the trend, there should be more flexibility in the schedule which will allow both family members to take care of the household. 

15) The effects of the pandemic.

Overall, the nature of work has been a topic that was frequently challenged by employees and employers throughout the pandemic. However, due to the event, over 80 percent of individuals in a study conducted by SimpleTexting agreed that the pandemic has changed their desire for a four-day work week. This will benefit employers as well because it will reduce overhead costs. 

In Summary:

With all of that being said, the bottom line is that the nature of work is changing, and an 8-hour shift for 5 days a week may not be the best solution for our current environment.

However, along with work hours, salaries, benefits, and wages for workers must be increased in order to match with today’s economic demands. After all, mental health should come first especially in demanding times. 

About the Author


Candice is currently attending school for social service work. One of her passions is helping others through my writing. In her downtime, you’ll find her listening to music, watching random YouTube videos, and writing about career goals and resumes. She hopes to start freelancing for writing and obtain a leadership position in a public services sector.