“Sorry, honey, I am staying late at the office and won’t be home for dinner.” Most wives hate getting this call from their husbands. Or the mother who misses her son’s sporting event: “Sorry, kiddo, but I’ll be there next time for sure.”
Excuses are plenty when it comes to getting stuck in the office with mountains of work. The truth of the matter is that corporate America never sleeps, and it thrives on a 24/7 communication. Employees, on the other hand, simply cannot be there as long as many companies would like. They have social lives, families, and alone time that they need to attend to.
Because of this, there should be a limit on how many hours a week an employee can work. Yes, there is work that needs to be done at the office, but studies have proven that limiting the hours on a consistent basis will benefit both employers and employees. Research has shown time and time again that 40 hours is the perfect length for the work week.
In the early 1900s, the Ford Motor Company did something no business had ever done before. They took the drastic step of doubling their employees’ pay to five dollars a day and reduced the shifts from nine hours to eight hours. In contrast to everyone’s expectations, the Ford Motor Company approximately doubled their profit margin from 30 million to 60 million in only two years. Not only did the Ford Motor Company have satisfied employees, but they also paved the way and set standards for other companies.
The Ford Motor Company did not set these standards out of the kindness of their heart. They ran multiple tests and studies to find the optimum work hours for worker productivity.
The winner of their study? Forty hours a week. They determined that anything more leads to negative results due to factors such as employee fatigue.
It may be 100 years later, but Ford Motor Company’s discovery still holds true in today’s corporate world. Much like the factory workers building cars at Ford, office workers today still accomplish more work in a solid 40 hour week than those who regularly work 60 hours or more.
Ford Motor Company is not the only place to limit the amount of hours their employees work in a given week. Many competitive countries in Europe, for example, have banned work weeks greater than 48 hours. These countries include Sweden, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom.
Franklin D. Roosevelt is one of the most respected United States Presidents. As a man of dignity, Roosevelt lobbied for shorter work hours throughout his time as president, and in 1936, the Walsh-Healy Public Contracts Act was passed to require government contractors to be paid overtime rates if they worked more than eight hours per day. In 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed to make the 40 hour work week a law.
Corporate America needs to stop and reevaluate. They need to take the advice of past successors. Deadlines can still be met and projects can still be accomplished (better accomplished, in fact) by limiting the work week to 40 hours per employee.
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