Why do we have 8 hours of work a day?

What we have in business today is your typical worker doing a day of around 8 hours work. So how did we ever come up with this exact figure of 8?

The answer is due to the Industrial revolution. In the 18th century, companies were looking to maximise their output, trying to achieve a 24/7 staffed policy as this was key to success during those times.

Most workers had to endure; 10-16 hours a day in these factories for the purpose of this article we could call them “Labour”. The labour was always treated poorly with horrendous conditions child labour and no education. Then add to this the hours of work being 10+ hours a day you wonder how they survived. Average age expectancy has been affected – Dramatic changes began in the 18th century, with life expectancy in England rising to 41 years by 1820, 50 years by the early 20th century, and 77 years today”

It was not until a Welsh social reformer by the name of Robert Owen. Owen felt that the work day should be divided into thirds, with workers getting equal time to themselves and to sleep as they do for work. In 1817, he began campaigning for an eight hour working day for all workers; His mantra was “Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.”

Unfortunately, this did not catch on for some time. Throughout the 19th century a series of Factories Acts were passed that steadily improved working conditions and reduced work hours for most factory workers.

For instance, The Factories Act of 1847 stipulated that women and children were to be granted a ten hour work day, thus only having to work 60 hours per week

It wasn’t until much later that the Ford Company implemented the 8 hour work day and changed the standards for all manufacturers:

The Ford Motor Company, in 1914, not only cut the standard work day to eight hours, but also doubled their worker’s pay in the process. To the shock of many industries, this resulted in Ford’s productivity from these same workers but with fewer hours, actually increased significantly and Ford’s profit margins doubled within a two years. This progress encouraged other companies to adopt the shorter, eight hour work day as a standard for their employees and gains were made also.

So there you have it, the reason we work 8 hours a day, isn’t a mathematical equation on life or the workings of a genius.

It’s purely down to a century old tradition for running factories most efficiently Thank you Mr Ford!!!

Key Facts regarding 8 hour working day:

  • India was, by far, one of the more progressive countries regarding labour practices. India introduced the eight hour work day in 1912 – a full 26 years before the United States.
  • In the early 19th century in Britain, a series of “Factories Acts” were passed meant to help improve working conditions for workers, particularly for children. One of the first of these was in 1802 and stipulated children under the age of 9 were not to be allowed to work and, rather, must attend school. Further, children from the ages of 9-13 were only allowed to work eight hours per day and children from 14-18 could only work a maximum of 12 hours per day.

So remember the Key to getting ahead is setting aside 8 hours a day for work and 8 hours a day for sleep – and making sure they are not the same hours!


Wikipedia – 8 hour working day

A New View of Society; Or, Essays on the Formation of Human Character Preparatory to the Development of a Plan for Gradually Ameliorating the Condition of Mankind – 1816 – written by Robert Owen

http://www.nber.org – The National Bureau of economic research.


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