Experts weigh in on recent college grad's viral complaints about 9-to-5 schedule: 40-hour workweek is ‘a historical accident'

'There is a tendency now in younger folks to value their time more than advancement at work,' one expert says.

Experts weigh in on recent college grad's viral complaints about 9-to-5 schedule: 40-hour workweek is ‘a historical accident'

In a TikTok video that went viral, a recent graduate of college lamented the demands placed on her by her job.

9-to-5 work schedule


Brielle, the creator of this video, said she left for work at 7:15 am and didn't arrive home until 6 p.m. At that point, she had no energy to cook, exercise or visit friends.

She says, "I am in-person. I am commuting to the city. If I could walk to work I would be fine. But I can't."

The video immediately polarized viewers, with some empathizing that the current structure of workplaces is unhealthy while others criticised Brielle for complaining.

After the pandemic, employees have become more receptive to a shorter workweek. According to A, one in three workers would quit their current job for a shorter workweek.

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Ben Hunnicutt is an historian who studies why companies have abandoned shorter working days.

He says that the 40-hour week, which runs from 9 to 5, is not an universal mandate from God. It's an historical accident.

Brielle and other Gen Z employees could be the ones who facilitate a change in expectations within companies.

Hunnicutt believes that younger people value their time over advancement in the workplace. Maybe that's a decision we have to all make: time or money? "Money or your life?"

Work is a form of religion

Hours were continually cut from the 1800s at the height of the Industrial Revolution until 1940 when the 40 hour workweek was made law. Hunnicutt states that most economists predicted this trend would continue.

John Maynard Keynes (also known as "the father of macroeconomics") predicted that the workweek will be 15 hours by 2030. In 1930, Kellogg cereal introduced a six-hour working day.

Hunnicutt: "Nobody expected the process of shorter hours to end at 40-hours." There is no reason why the hours should not continue to decline.

He says the current structure of workweek is not an economic necessity, but rather a cultural value.

He says, "Work is the only way we can condemn other people, to set ourselves apart, and to justify racism."

Brielle and other people will be judged as long as Americans think that more work increases one's value.

He says, "Work is a religion and when a religion's existence is threatened, those who follow it get very angry."

People want to work as few hours as possible in order to get the best wage.

Some experts are not sure if changing the way or when employees work will improve their wellbeing.

Daniel Hamermesh is an economist at the University of Texas at Austin and a former professor of Economics. He says that the problem is not the structure of the week, but the desire to be at work. His research includes the shorter workweek.

He says, "People want the lowest possible amount of work and to get paid as much as they can." "People want to get more for less money, but that's not how the world works." "I wish it did."

Results of a six-month test

In the U.K., where employees received 100% of their pay for working only 80% of the day in exchange for 100% of what they normally produce, it was shown that working less improved worker satisfaction.

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Hamermesh studied the effects of working 10 hours per day, four days a weeks in South Korea between 1973 and 2018. He found that employee happiness did not increase much.

Hamermesh believes that these varying results are due to an expectancy theory cognitive process, which states that people work harder when they expect a reward or consequence. The positive effects will wear off after a while for people who achieve a 4-day week.

He says that "once they get a better schedule, they will be happy just as much as before (getting a shorter week)."

He says that Americans are fussy, and this is not going to change anytime soon: "Complaining, that's the American way. That is our strength."

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