An American Proposal: The Six-Hour Work Day
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One of the few similarities among people living all around the world is that they spend most of the existence working. In some countries, people start working as teenagers or young adults. Quite often, people work until they are elderly. Of course, people need to work: having a paying job is how we survive, take care of our families, build a life for ourselves. But in America, it seems that people live to work – and not work to live, which should be the case. In the United States, the eight-hour workday, 40-hour work week, is the accepted norm. Most Americans leave their homes each morning for work, which generally starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. In the middle is a lunch break, the length of which varies by each person’s profession. However, the eight-hour workday a seemingly unnatural law we all live by. American novelist William Faulkner hit the nail on the head: “It's a shame that the only thing a man can do for eight hours a day is work. He can't eat for eight hours; he can't drink for eight hours; he can't make love for eight hours. The only thing a man can do for eight hours is work.” This practice – the eight-hour workday, 40-hour work week – is a detrimental recipe for the everyday, middle-class American, who is overworked, exhausted, stressed and underpaid. What is the worst: many American workers are expected by their employers to exceed their 40-hour work week. What America needs is a Federal law implementing the six-hour workday and the two-hour lunch break, which constitutes the 30-hour work week. This action would not only help the economy, it would alleviate stress, making for a better quality of life for Americans. Also, the six-hour workday would mean the workforce could spend more time with their families, which reinforces a person’s need to work in the first place.
If all Americans were to have two hours of lunch each day of the working week, instead of the accepted one hour or less, there would be an improvement in the work force’s mental health. It’s quite stressful getting only a short amount of time to take lunch in the middle of the workday; it’s never enough time to relax and get away from stressful work; not enough time to run important errands and get a decent meal, with certainly no opportunities for quality family time. Imagine a workday where a person works three hours, goes to lunch for two hours, then heads back to work for another three hours. People have so much to do each and every day. To feel overwhelmed about one’s job only makes each day worse. If our country wants to see fewer people becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol, fewer shootings and violent crimes, and fewer suicides, the Federal government must seriously consider ways of alleviating people’s stress and instead focus on building happier individuals and families. This begins with implementing laws for shorter workdays and longer lunch breaks. It will benefit everyone regardless of their career.
People with this amount of time to work – six hours – will have ample time to get their jobs done. According to an article on The Local, an English newspaper in Sweden, “Swedes to give six-hour workday a go,” the Municipal staff in the city of Gothenburg experimented with the six-hour workday, with hopes it will cut down on sick leave, boost efficiency and save the country money; also that it will get staff members “feeling better mentally and physically after they've worked shorter days,” says the town’s deputy mayor, Mats Pilhem. It makes much sense. One notion is employees will take fewer breaks throughout the day since the workday will be shorter. “Every time you have a break, it takes 10 to 15 minutes to get back to work, because you have to see where you were when you left off,” Pelham says. The six-hour workday would remedy this. Employees would get more accomplished in a shorter time, plus they would be happier while doing it. Since it seems that social time is built into the work normal eight-hour workday – Americans probably spend about an hour a day just chatting with their fellow employees, and may therefore take advantage of this hour because they resent being forced to work for eight hours a day – the six-hour workday would force them to get their work done more efficiently without this hour of socializing.
Another byproduct of the six-hour workday is employees having more time to spend with family and friends each day, whether on the extended, two-hour lunch break or as a result of not working overtime each day. Most people work not only for their own survival but the survival of their loved ones – their family, spouse, children and extended family. Spending time with family, as much as possible, reinforces one’s need to work in the first place; in turn, spending time with family urges one, encourages a person, that they must work. When a person does not get to spend enough time with family, or their loved ones, they are likely to lose focus on the major picture: why they work in the first place – for their loved ones. On a given day, Americans work well over their eight hours Monday through Friday, each week. This means time away from family, time away from doing the things that matter most to the individual. If it were mandated that people worked a minimum of six hours a day, with a two-hour lunch break in between, Americans would, as a whole, spend more time doing the things they want with the people they love the most, and so it would make for happier citizens.
For the average American, the “lunch hour” is rarely an hour long, probably much closer to just a mere half-hour to take lunch. Plus, the length of time a person has for their lunch break varies by their profession; a teacher may only get 30 minutes for lunch, which they have to take without leaving the school, while a salesman may get to take a couple hours of lunch, especially if they’re meeting with a client. And some people aren’t given a lunch break at all and have to eat lunch – if they get a chance to eat at all – while doing their job. But why do American employees get such little time for lunch? Thirty minutes, even a full hour, for lunch, is not a sufficient amount of time for a 21st-century adult. If the Federal government were to enforce the six-hour workday (and the 30-hour work week) with a two-hour lunch break in between, for American workers, it would mean a surge in the economy, as well. It’s very simple. Generally, when Americans are not working, it can be assumed they are with their families or spending money in some way or another, whether paying bills, buying groceries, running errands, conducting leisure activities. This is the case with most people living in first-world and even developing countries. The two-hour lunch break would be beneficial for the economy. Instead of getting groceries at night after work or on the weekends, instead of having to get up early for an early morning gym workout, people could do these things over their lunch break in time for the afternoon shift. Also, with a long break in the middle of the workday, people would take off less time from work to attend must-dos like doctor’s appointments.
In conclusion, Americans are not the only ones who would benefit from the six-hour workday, the 30-hour work week. It is something that would benefit citizens of every country, as many in the most poverty-stricken parts of world work around the clock just to survive. This notion of shortening the work week would have an equalizing effect, as well, among Americans: It seems that so many middle and lower-class Americans, those who do a majority of the hard-labor jobs, work many more hours and have much less time off than those of the upper class. This is not fair and not healthy for a society built on equality and freedom. With the Federal regulation of the six-hour workday and the two-hour lunch break, all working Americans would have the same equal rights and be void of oppressive working conditions. While this six-hour workday, and the 30-hour work week, is surely a good idea, it still has a few gaps; it’s not quite a perfect plan. The compressed work week may more put more pressure on workers to increase the pace of their work, unfortunately. Also, people who have to, or want to, will still be working longer hours and weeks. Nonetheless, the six-hour workday, and the 30-hour work week, the notion is one that America could embrace in order to evolve as a 21st-century society held up by Human Rights.
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