Simply put, it needs to be abolished. The forty hour work week reinforces the idea that we are all commodities and our worth is based on how well we do our work or how much we produce. Even if one enjoys their career, they are laboring and being paid for this labor. We earn money to live comfortably and enjoy our lives, but we are not given adequate time to do so because we spend five out of seven days in a week at work. If one thinks about this deeply, they would probably realize that this occupies a very large chunk of our lives. We spend our days owing our lives to someone or something else because they are giving us the means that we need to survive (a lot to unpack here).
Many say that the happy medium is a four day work week with a three day weekend. I am sure that this is probably dependent on the job at hand. Of course, many professions are essential. If someone breaks their leg, a doctor has to be available to mend it. Even with these professions, though, an assortment of shifts are and can be taken. Even having flexibility in the work day is important because taking care of our minds, bodies, and loved ones is not a weekend task – doing so is an every day requirement. I value exercising, eating, sleeping, spending time with family or friends, and reading every day in addition to working, and I would like to have some time left over to just chill as well.
I personally think that if one can finish their work and meet every deadline in less than forty hours, then so be it. Anything that requires forty hours or more can wait. Do not launch or hire anyone for your company or organization if this is not the case. If you have to subject your employees to extensive hours or terrible working conditions, do you really think that your organization deserves to exist? I know so many individuals who worry about using their paid time off because of the amount of work that they have on their plates, or simply because of the fear of having tasks wait until they come back. Our brains are rarely able to quit the work browser even for a day, and this is because we have been conditioned to commodify ourselves and believe that we do not deserve a happy, safe, and healthy life otherwise.
I understand that abolishing the forty hour work week seems ~radical~ and, obviously, may not happen overnight, but so many organizations across the world are already doing it. These groups recognize that requiring their employees to spend the majority of their lives at work is not sustainable for their well beings (or the company’s well being). Additionally, many millennials and zoomers are turning to self-employment because they can control their own schedules and care for themselves. Of course, this does not mean that they are not working just as hard – they are able to do so more efficiently while making substantial livings.
Again, I do hope and wish for every human to enjoy their career. This is what I want for myself as well. I just do not think that they should consume our entire lives. People deserve to live comfortably and enjoy their lives regardless of how much they work. Too much of anything can turn out to be harmful, remember? Having a balance between work, hobbies, health, and loved ones is key. I genuinely think that we could possibly have a happier and more innovative world if we committed to this balance.