The Myth of the 8 Hour Workday! Why we need a New Approach to Productivity

How the 8 Hour Workday Concept Became the Gold Standard and Why it is Outdated

One of the enduring legacies of the First Industrial Revolution is the approach to measuring personal and organizational productivity.

With the advent of Manufacturing firms and industries where hard labour was required, productivity was usually measured in linear terms such as making the workers work for 8 hours a day and then, calculating the units of output that they managed to deliver.

This was a simple and straightforward approach wherein it was assumed that workers on the shop floor worked for 8 hours a day with breaks in between and hence, the total daily output in the 8 hours of work was taken as the measure of how productive they were.

Indeed, this measure of productivity was quite popular for many decades as Assembly Line workers and their productivity was easy to capture and report.

However, the advent of the Services Revolution and the emergence of the Knowledge Economy called for a new approach to productivity and while many software and financial services firms did start experimenting with different ways to measure productivity, the conventional 8 hour workday managed to remain as the Gold Standard.

The Emerging Digital Age and Work from Home Models Need New Productivity Measures

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution underway where Digital Age firms are now the backbone of the economy, we argue that it is time we approached productivity in a different manner.

Moreover, with WFH or Work from Home becoming the norm due to the Covid 19 Pandemic, the standard measures of productivity no longer suffice.

For instance, much before WFH became the norm, Project Managers in leading IT (Information Technology) firms were budgeting for more or less than 8 hours per day as the norm, rather than the exception.

For anyone who has worked in a software or financial services firm, it would be clear that 9 to 5 workdays are a myth and most employees stay back into the night as well as work on holidays and weekends.

So, if forecasting and budgeting as well as estimating the time needed for future projects is based on the 8 hour workday, then such estimates do not capture the accurate timelines.

Indeed, research has shown that nearly 80% of the projects do not run according to schedule and a major reason for this is the methods of measuring and then forecasting productivity. So, what we need is a new approach to productivity.

Top Performers, Creative Professionals, and Value Addition and Productivity Approaches

Moreover, WFH arrangements are the Final Nail in the Coffin as far as the conventional 8 hour workdays are concerned.

Anyone who works from home knows that adhering to standard office hours when working from home is anything but a fact and more often than not, employees pace themselves balancing personal and professional commitments.

Moreover, even before WFH became the norm, it was common for them to multitask and overlap tasks with other work and hence, linear measures of productivity are a thing of the past.

In addition, the talented and the gifted among the workforce usually have a different approach to work and they get much more work done in a very unconventional fashion.

Indeed, the High Performers are one reason why we simply cannot persist with the standard measures of productivity.

Moreover, these top performers focus on Adding and Creating value rather than simply clocking up output and deliverables.

The same goes for the Creative Class where productivity cannot be measured by output alone.

As mentioned earlier, WFH has also brought together all these reasons why we need to measure productivity in a manner that is truer to the realities rather than by the standard and mechanical measures.

Micro Measurement, Morning/Evening Persons, WFH, and Multitasking and Productivity

Possible approaches to the new model of measuring productivity can include taking into account the time taken for individual tasks and meetings separately as well as budgeting for breaks and other miscellaneous activities.

For instance, calls and discussions now take up more time than the actual tasks alone and hence, the time spent on them must be budgeted for as well.

In addition, WFH has enabled professionals to be slotted as Morning and Evening persons depending on when they are at their most productive and in a way, this liberates from them from The Tyranny of 8 hour workdays.

Consequently, what organizations need to do is to include all these aspects into the methods they use to measure productivity.

Moreover, not all days are productive and hence, employee downtime and lean days as well as days in which creativity peaks and productivity soars are additional reasons for measuring productivity differently.

In addition, for financial services firms, travelling and client meetings as well as cold calling and prospect and lead generation in addition to extended client courtship are other aspects that need to be taken into account when measuring productivity.

Therefore, we need to move beyond the 8 hour workday norm.

New Approaches to Business and Management

Last, as mentioned earlier, much like most of the so far dominant management concepts, the 8 hour workday is a relic of the First Industrial Revolution.

While it was served us well until now, the emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution calls for New Approaches to business and management and hence, the time has come now for us to look at how we measure productivity.

The Digital Age is reordering most aspects of our working and personal lives and productivity is one such aspect that needs redefinition and new approaches.

To conclude, it is high time we moved beyond the productivity myth.


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The article is Written By “Prachi Juneja” and Reviewed By Management Study Guide Content Team. MSG Content Team comprises experienced Faculty Member, Professionals and Subject Matter Experts. We are a ISO 2001:2015 Certified Education Provider. To Know more, click on About Us. The use of this material is free for learning and education purpose. Please reference authorship of content used, including link(s) to ManagementStudyGuide.com and the content page url.


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