Clocking in and out of an eight-hour shift has been the rat-race norm for Americans since Henry Ford standardized the 40-hour workweek. Is it possible to do away with the concept of a 40-hour, in-office workweek?

Moving from a production-based to a service-based economy has allowed us to innovate the way in which we do work. Even with the rise of remote work and telecommuting, it seems people are still stuck in the notion that a 40-hour workweek equates to peak performance and productivity. As a millennial, I strongly believe that a four-day workweek and more flexible alternatives to complete work remotely would lead to increased productivity and employee satisfaction.

Here are a few more reasons why companies should reevaluate the utility and value of the standard 40-hour, five-day workweek.

Productivity decreases the more you work

Research shows that most people are productive for only three to four hours a day. It can be argued that if people do force themselves to work beyond their productivity threshold, the quality of their work is often diminished. We have all heard of workplaces where employees are putting in 60 to 70 hours a week, and employee health generally suffers as a result. They adopt unhealthy habits like drinking, eating unhealthy foods and failing to get enough rest. When we stress working more, we’re not creating a happy and healthy workplace.

Technology makes working outside the office easier

As digital natives, millennials are used to integrating technology into their daily lives, from project management tools to apps that help us meditate and grocery shop. Many of us find ourselves waking up and instantly checking our phones or iPads to read messages, plan our days, conduct conference calls, etc. We connect with anyone from anywhere with tools like Google Hangouts, Skype and Zoom.

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We need not be in the store to buy our groceries, just as we need not be in an office eight hours a day to do our jobs. Changing our work settings and surroundings plays a huge role in our happiness and productivity. Employees generally enjoy their work more when they break up the monotony that comes from sitting in an office chair all day.

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Work-life balance leads to happier employees

Despite the pressure to be everything and do everything at work, most people are still failing at this impossible goal. Every generation has sought their own version of work-life balance. Millennials’ civic involvement has steadily increased as the generation has grown older, and so we appreciate having time away from work to participate in civic and community engagement events.

We are a generation that has no problem blending work with life — answering emails at 5 a.m. on Monday, running personal errands during the workday, and working on projects on a Sunday is a pretty familiar schedule for some millennials. When we can have autonomy over how we integrate work and life, we perform better.

With technological advances and the huge influx of millennials in America’s workforce, we can no longer think of work in such an antiquated way. We can no longer think of productivity as having your bottom in an office chair for 40 hours a week. Work can be accomplished in a multitude of spaces. If we trust — and value — our employees, we need to be flexible in how we let them accomplish their work.

Ciera Graham writes for Seattle Times Explore. (Courtesy of Ciera Graham)
Ciera Graham writes for Seattle Times Explore. (Courtesy of Ciera Graham)