A Case Against the 8-Hour Workday

© fotomatrix - Fotolia The world is on the verge of a new age, where the 8-hour workday is an idea of the past. More and more organizations are giving their employees the freedom to choose their hours and work during the times that work best for them. One such organization is social media tool Buffer. Co-founder Leo Widrich recently wrote about why he no longer believes in the 8-hour workday.

The average American still works about 8.8 hours a day. But what many don't realize is where the 8-hour workday comes from. Back during the Industrial Revolution, factories had employees working 10 to 16 hours a day, as this was optimal in running their factories efficiently. Then came Robert Owen, who campaigned for 8-hour workdays, giving people ample time for recreation and rest.

Henry Ford was the first to implement the 8-hour workday at the Ford Motor Company. He also doubled worker pay, which resulted in much higher profit margins thanks to a more productive workforce. Many began following in his footsteps.

Tony Scwartz, founder and CEO of The Energy Project, says today's workforce needs to focus on managing energy, not time. He says there are four different types of energies we should focus on every day: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

According to Widrich, we should be focusing our workdays around an ultradian cycle. This cycle suggests that we can focus on a single task for 90 to 120 minutes. After this, we need a 20 to 30 minute break to recharge. So, rather than viewing a workday as a bulk 8 hours, begin looking at it as a collection of 90-minute intervals.

To become more productive at work, Widrich suggests giving each task its own deadline to increase the relevance of it. "It can be hard to maintain focus, especially if what you're doing doesn't have a deadline," he writes. "Overriding your attention system, and adding your own deadline together with a reward can significantly improve task completion, according to researcher Keisuke Fukuda."

In addition to splitting your day in to a handful of 90-minute intervals. Widrich suggests getting rid of any and all notifications. "One of the best ideas I’ve ever had was to follow Joel [Gascoigne's] advice on zero notifications. Having absolutely no alerts on my phone or computer that breaks my focus has been a huge help. If you haven’t tried it, try to turn off every digital element that could become an alert."