• The 8-Hour workday was created by Robert Owen during the industrial revolution
  • 8-Hours was a relief to factory workers who normally worked 12-16 hour days
  • Today, the 8 hour day and 40 hour week is standardized
It’s like this every damn day.

Your phone alarm goes off. And as usual, you’re tired as fuck. You drag your ass outta bed and the chaos begins.

It’s a circus act in the mornings to get everything and everyone out the door, including yourself.

You fight through the commute and get to your desk in a frenzy.

Then, for the next eight fucking hours (nine if you have unpaid lunch hour), you grind away at your desk banging out reports, attending stupid meetings, building elaborate Powerpoints, crunching endless numbers, joining boring conference calls, etc.

This is corporate slavery.

When the clock strikes six o’clock, you can finally disconnect from work and leave all the bullshit behind.

By the time you get home, you’re exhausted. Totally spent. Yet, there’s so much other shit in your life that needs your attention the moment you set foot inside your house.

There isn’t enough time in the evening to get everything done. But, you do your best and with what little time you have left at the end of the night, you end up putting off precious sleep so that you can have some personal downtime in bed browsing the web.

The reason why we have so little free time for ourselves at night?

It’s because we spend the majority of our waking hours at the damn office.

Who the fuck came up with an 8-hour workday anyway?

It takes up so much damn time. Is it really warranted?

Robert Owen Created The 8 Hour Workday

It's no secret that the 8-hour workday is a staple of the corporate workplace. We all suffer through it on a daily basis.

But where did this tradition come from?

Contrary to what you may think, it didn't originate with Henry Ford, the modern labor movement or management theorists in the early 20th century. In fact, the 8-hour day can be traced all the way back to the industrial revolution that began in Great Britain in the early 1800’s.

The man credited with coming up with this idea was this British dude named Robert Owen. This guy was a textile businessman and did pretty damn well for himself. He owned and operated several big textile manufacturing factories.

More importantly, Owen wasn’t just a big-time textile baller, he was a stand-up guy. He was a philanthropist and social reformer that wanted to improve the lives of factory workers. He was the exact opposite of an asshole boss.

You see, back during the industrial revolution, it was common for factory workers to work for 12 to 16 hours a day - no joke. Even children couldn’t escape the long working hours.

Owen saw that this wasn’t good for his workers' welfare or their families. He knew about managing work stress way before it was a thing. He wanted better. And, since he was the head honcho, he could implement the change he wanted to see. He called the shots.

So, in 1817, Owen declared that factory workers should only work 8 hours a day, no more. He coined the phrase, “Eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest." The three 8’s encompassed the 24 hours in a day.

His concept slowly started to spread outside of Great Britain to other countries where labor unions were fighting and winning the battle for the shorter 8-hour working day.

The labor unions across America were standing hard on the 8-hour workday and with each small victory, the idea spread across many industries.

By 1938, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act that solidified the 40-hour workweek and any time over that would be overtime. That was when it became official.

So, you may want to bash Owen for the 8-hour workday, but remember things were a whole helluva lot worse back in the days of the industrial revolution.

Henry Ford’s Contribution To The 8-Hour Workday

You may think that Henry Ford wanted to follow in the footsteps of Robert Owen and be a social reformer for his factory workers, but he wasn’t. Ford was a businessman, period.

Anything and everything that had to do with his business of making cars was all about efficiency and speed. He was one of the forefathers of the assembly line manufacturing process. He didn’t invent it, that was another dude named Ransom Olds.

Fun little side fact - Ransom Olds car company was called REO Motor Company. The REO was his initials. And, one of the vehicles they made was a small delivery truck called the REO Speed Wagon, which is the name of the band from the 80’s.

Cool, huh?

Anyway, back to Ford.

What Ford did was improve upon Olds’ assembly line process by making it a moving assembly line instead of a stationary one. This meant that the vehicle started as a bare chassis at the start of the line and as it moved along the line, the factory workers would install components on the chassis until it rolled off the line as a complete car at the end.

The goal was to keep the momentum going smoothly and efficiently.

What Ford did was examine the ideal amount of work that the factory workers could do that would result in the most output with the least amount of errors. Each task was studied and analyzed for optimum efficiency.

This analysis broadened from individual tasks to what the worker could do in a day reliably and efficiently while minimizing problems and mistakes.

And guess what?

His team of production researchers found that an 8-hour workday was just about the most efficient amount of time that a worker could “get in the zone” and work in a day. More work could be done, but then each task became slower and more susceptible to mistakes. And, mistakes cost money.

Plus, Ford didn’t want to pay workers for slower and sloppier work. So, the line was drawn at 8-hours to maximize productivity to it fullest while minimizing waste. This was then extrapolated over five days resulting in a 40 hour workweek.

Ford was more accepting of the hours not because of labor union pressures but more likely because of his team’s analysis of production efficiency, which ultimately resulted in healthier profits.

As Ford and other auto manufacturers adopted the 40-hour workweek, other industries followed.

By 1938, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act that solidified the 40-hour workweek and any time over that would be overtime. That was when it became official.

Clock-In, Kick Ass Then Clock-Out!

You may want to curse Owen for the 8-hour workday and Ford for the 40-hour workweek, but remember things were a whole helluva lot worse back in the days of the industrial revolution.

Can you imagine having to fucking work 16 hour days?

That’s insanity.

And while we all have to put in some late night hours or even sometimes weekends to finish up a big project, it’s not something that we have to do day-in and day-out. It’s only on rare occasions.

So, don’t lose sight of the fact that things could be a lot worse.

This is not to play down all the hard work you put in to get all of your shit done. What you do is instrumental for the company, even if it’s grunt work. That shit is still important and critical for the company despite the fact that you don’t get more fucking recognition for it.

Just remember, once you hit the wall, continuing to push forward isn’t going to be ideal. So, if it’s the end of the day and there’s still a bunch of tasks left to do, let it go until tomorrow. The company will survive and there will always be more work.

You need to give yourself some me-time. Those hours after work are precious. Don’t burn them at the office. They’re for you and your family.

Feel Better,

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