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Is The Traditional 8-hour Work Day Hurting Our Health

Is The Traditional 8-hour Work Day Hurting Our Health?


For the most part, our lives continuously follow a pattern. We wake up, eat 3 square meals a day, sleep for 8 hours per night and work for 8 hours per day (usually 9am to 5pm, as Dolly Parton infamously sang about).

But are those 9-5 work days making us less healthy and happy as human beings?

Working 9-5 has been standard practice since 1914, when Ford Motor Company decided to bring in the working hours for their production lines. But over a century later, a lot has changed and there is much need for the way we work to evolve with the way we live.

Various studies across the world have revealed that working 8 hours a day or more can actually decrease our health, both mentally and physically. We find it harder to get our 8 hours sleep at night, often don’t fit in our 3 square meals per day and don’t have enough down time to enjoy with our family and friends. This leads to us being more at risk of health problems and feel generally less happy in life.

Sweden are one of the early adopters of change on the working day front. They’ve reduced their standard work day to just 6 hours, to promote happier and healthier workers. They say this change will hopefully lead to a more productive workforce.

Staying Healthy and Happy, Despite Your Work Hours

Ireland may not be jumping on the 6-hour work day just yet, but there are things you can do to promote health and happiness in your life no matter what your work hours are:

  • Be in tune with your own ‘work cycles’. Everyone has a  maximum period of time that they can focus for before they need to take a short break. Know your limits and take regular breaks when you need to, even if it’s just to pop the kettle on or nip outside for some fresh air.
  • Know when your most productive times of the day are. When are you at your most focused and motivated? Do the most important/higher energy tasks during these times of the day and save easier/quicker tasks for when you feel less productive.
  • Don’t multi-task. Set yourself one task at a time and wait until it’s completed to move onto something else.
  • Minimise distractions  by turning your phone/alerts off and only checking social media/personal emails and messages during breaks.
  • Do something to wind down each day. Gentle exercise, meditation or another relaxing activity will allow you to feel refreshed and sleep better each night.
  • Eat and drink well. It’s tempting when in an office to snack and not drink enough fluid. Try to keep a glass or bottle of water at your desk and keep drinking it regularly. Also, if you are a snacker, try snacking on healthier items such as fruit and veetables that feed your brain and make you feel energized and more focused.


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