Opinions

Taking another look at our country’s work culture

Eight-hour work days were implemented to create a balance between work and enjoying life; now, employees are forced to face the consequences.

After graduating from college, many students will end up back at another desk, racking up 40 hours on a weekly time card that will become one of the major indicators of their diminishing health.

Visibly, people can see the physical health concerns that this creates, such as obesity and lethargy. Sitting through these long periods of time increases these risks and other physical detriments that are growing throughout the nation.

There’s little to no attention to this facet of our work culture. Instead, business owners are more concerned with having their employees available for the majority of the week. They believe that the more hours that are clocked in, the more revenue they will rake in.

It’s important to understand the flaws behind this mindset. We’ve accepted a culture that is more focused on the output that employees can create than aiding employees’ productivity. The results are damaging. The amount of people getting heart disease and obesity is skyrocketing — and the long workweek is to blame.

One might suggest that the obvious solution would be to implement exercise before or after work, which is an understandable, yet simple, approach. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 80 percent of American adults do not get enough exercise. The eight-hour work day is at fault, not those who’ve been forced to undergo these conditions. No wonder we don’t have the time or energy to go to the gym after a long day of work. We aren’t as concerned as to how much exercise we should be getting.

So where did this brilliant idea of “full-time” from? In the 18th century, the average work week was 80 hours due to the industrial revolution and the need to modernize the nation. After noticing the abuse on workers, Congress amended the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the work week was limited down to 40 hours.

Although that was a success for laborers at the time, much of the work was simply that:, labor. Physically, 100 hours of strain on the body each week was terrible; however, in many states across the U.S. today, a majority of jobs can be found in a nice, air conditioned building with rows of cubicles filled with workers who are now sacrificing productivity.

The work day alone is a harmful aspect, but we also can connect it to the commute that usually coincides. According to CNN, nearly 86 percent of us drive to work, while five percent take public transportation. Leaving only three percent of us either walking or riding a bike to work.

Not only are we spending a majority of our days sitting to work, we’re also immobile while traveling to work. With that being said, our commute is slowly killing us too.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Some European countries have proven that working only six hours a day produces equal, if not more, work output. In Luxembourg, a social experiment showed a boost in productivity and employee satisfaction after implementing shorter workdays.

“The US is the second-most productive country worldwide, second only to Luxembourg… but spends 20% more time at work than those [in countries like] in Luxembourg,” according to Quartz.

Additionally, CNBC reported that full-time employees in the U.S work an average of 47 hours a week, which is almost a full work day longer than the 40-hour workweek standard. The country’s work culture prides itself on having unrealistically high standards for work ethic. Even so, its citizens will never be able to see the benefits of shorter workdays. The ingrained ideology of hyperproductivity will leave them thinking that there is no other possible way to do their jobs efficiently.

Our idea of full-time is a serious issue. Our country’s associated its identity as being the strongest in the world; in order to be so, we must work harder and longer than anyone else. Instead of fighting against this idea, most Americans are not only okay with working the extra hours, they’re proud of it.

We need to detract from this behavior. We need to do better than that.

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