Shorter work hours are necessary for modern lifestyles

Hiba Ahmad
Contributing Columnist

Illustration by Chris Kindred

The United States is one of the hardest working nations in the world because of its proud history of legendary manufacturing, hard working citizens and long working weeks. The States, however, are second in the world of self-production as compared to the relatively small country of Luxembourg in Western Europe. According to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, the annual number of hours an American citizen works is 1788, whereas Luxembourg’s annual average is 1643 hours. Comparisons between the U.S. and other Western nations have been brought to the forefront in the discussion of  possibly decreasing the average working week.

By observing other Western nations, U.S. citizens have raised the question of whether the traditional 40-hour week is necessary in this day and age, especially when the benefits outweigh the cons of cutting back. Laborers who work shorter hours are able to balance work and play, are healthier physically and emotionally and generally are more satisfied with their careers which prevents turnover.

Most working individuals wish there were more hours in the day because 24 doesn’t seem to be enough for their 9-to-5, a family and hopefully themselves. People should make an effort to cut back on their working hours in order to accommodate more personal time, but most individuals aren’t willing to make the cut. In American culture, individuals who work an exorbitant amount of hours are figures of admiration because in their minds a quantifiable number defines hard work.

Of course, doctors who work 60-hour weeks should be commended for the backbreaking work they put into their careers, as should teachers and professors who often take their work home with them in order to provide the best service for their students. However, if the U.S. wants to adopt a shorter working week they will first have to rid themselves of the idea that is deeply imbedded in its culture that more hours mean harder work.

We should apply the concept of quality over quantity to our workforce, at least to certain service level jobs, because it can help companies cut labor costs while also meeting the needs of their customers. In Germany, for example, the annual average of hours worked in a year per individual is 1388 hours and yet they are known as the powerhouse of Western Europe. They are a prime example of a strong self-sustaining country all the while having one of the lowest amounts of hours worked per individual in the Western world.

There are professions such as medical, government or entrepreneurial fields that require extensive hours that cannot be cut down. An ER surgeon who is often on call most of the week, on top of their regular hours, works an extensive schedule. If they didn’t, many emergency patients’ lives would be at risk.

It is true that emergencies will never stop happening, and there will always be an urgent need for such professionals, but there are jobs that could cut down their hours if they worked more efficiently. Being a journalist, deadlines are our enemy and our best friend. If the research is done ahead of time and the article is written accordingly, then time can be saved. Incorporating technology into the equation helps cut down on labor costs while also increasing production.

Working is one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences one can undertake, but that does not mean that it should dominate every aspect of our lives. We need to remember that we are human beings not machines. We are social creatures that need human interactions beyond the workplace.

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