With modern automation and efficiency, why do we still work 40 hours a week?

The standard 40-hour workweek has historical roots and has been influenced by various factors, including labor movements, economic considerations, and societal norms. While technological advancements and increased automation have the potential to improve efficiency, there are several reasons why the 40-hour workweek persists:

Cultural and Historical Norms

The 40-hour workweek has become a cultural norm in many societies, and changing established norms can be a slow process. Historical labor movements, such as the fight for the eight-hour workday, have contributed to the acceptance of the 40-hour workweek.

Economic Considerations

The 40-hour workweek is often tied to economic factors and the need for sustained economic growth. In many countries, the standard workweek is linked to labor laws, which may have been established during times when the economy was primarily industrial and manufacturing-based.

Productivity Metrics

Some employers still use the number of hours worked as a measure of productivity, even though research suggests that productivity is not solely determined by the number of hours worked. Shifting to outcome-based measures of productivity requires a change in mindset and management practices.

Workplace Culture

Many workplaces have a culture that values long hours and equates them with dedication and commitment. This cultural aspect can create pressure on employees to conform to traditional work hours.

Fear of Job Loss

Employees may fear that reducing their working hours could lead to job insecurity. In a competitive job market, there may be reluctance among workers to advocate for shorter workweeks.

Industry Practices

Some industries and professions have established norms that require a certain number of working hours. For example, client expectations, deadlines, and the nature of the work in certain sectors may make it challenging to adopt shorter workweeks.

Legislation and Regulations

Labor laws and regulations in many countries are structured around the 40-hour workweek. Changing these laws often requires a significant legislative effort and societal consensus.


While the 40-hour workweek remains prevalent, there is a growing awareness of the need for flexibility and alternative work arrangements.

Some companies are experimenting with shorter workweeks, flexible schedules, and remote work as they recognize the potential benefits for employee well-being, job satisfaction, and overall productivity.

As societal attitudes and work practices evolve, it’s possible that the traditional 40-hour workweek may see further adjustments in the future.