I Can’t Work 8 Hours a Day: What Should I Do

I

can't work 8 hours a day

If you’ve come to this post, there’s a good chance that you’re feeling like you simply can’t work 8 hours a day.

Whether it’s the boredom of it, the feeling of exhaustion at the end of the day, or whatever the reason may be, working an 8 hour day is something that many folks absolutely can not stand.

To that end, this article is going to unpack the 8 hour work day and how to navigate it if you’re struggling with it.

Why Was the 8 Hour Workday Created?

The 8 hour work day was mostly created to protect manufacturing and industrial workers around the time of the industrial revolution.

At that time, labor unions and other leaders pushed for the institution of an 8 hour work day in response to increasing labor hours. It was not uncommon for manufacturing workers to put in 10 hour, 12 hour, or even long days during that period.

Since then, the 8 hour day became the standard work rhythm and has not changed substantially.

This video from Today I Found Out unpacks the history of the 8 hour workday, why it wasn’t created, and why is still hasn’t changed:

Does Everyone Work 8 Hours a Day?

8 hours a day is the most common working schedule and represents the average number of hours worked on a weekday.

That said, everyone does not work 8 hours a day. Flexible working arrangement through remote work and the gig economy are becoming more common and are providing workers with additional options to create their own schedules.

Is It Healthy to Work an 8 Hour Day?

Working 8 hours a day or more tends to be associated with poorer overall health, and a higher risk of developing heart or stress related diseases.

The underlying reasons tend to be related to fatigue and the stress of working a demanding job. Additionally, sitting down for extended periods has been shown to negatively impact health.

Is Working 8 Hours a Day Too Much?

In general, most scientists seem to agree that 6 – 8 hours is the ideal working time. In fact a recent study showed that employees get sick less, have lower stress, and work harder, when their hours are closer to 6 per day. 

As further evidence, this video from Jason Whaling provides a deep dive into the ideal hours per day that you should be working, along with further support for the case that 6 – 8 hours seems to be the sweet spot:

Why Do I Have to Work 8 Hours a Day?

In general, people are working 8 hours per day due to established cultural norms and rhythms.

As previously discussed, the 8 hour workday was created during the industrial revolution to cap the long hours worked by industrial employees. 

In our current day and age, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that the 8 hour workday does not maximize our productivity, nor serve our health particularly well.

However, to this point, there hasn’t been a significant shift in the 8 hour work day structure.

How Can I Survive 8 Hours a Day?

To survive working 8 hours a day, there are two big things that you can do:

1. Find Work That You Enjoy

I know it’s easier said than done but surviving 8 hours a day is so much easier is you’re doing work that you actually like. 

To me, the best framework for finding work that you enjoy is called Ikigai, and it represents the intersection of the following four components:

  • What you like
  • What you’re good at
  • What can make money
  • What the world needs

ikigai

If you can find your Ikigai, and go out and actualize that work, surviving 8 hours a day becomes so much more enjoyable.

To help, we have a full article on Ikigai, with a deeper dive article on discovering what you like doing.

2. Optimize Your Routine and Work Context

The famous career counseling book What Color is Your Parachute, talks about seven different factors that contribute to enjoyment of your job:

  1. Your compatibility with the people (boss and colleagues)
  2. Your workplace conditions
  3. The skills you’re using
  4. Your sense of purpose
  5. The knowledge that you’re using
  6. Your pay
  7. Your location

Now, you may ultimately like what you do, but feel like you can’t survive doing it for eight hours per day. If that’s you, then you may just need to change something about your work context and/or your routine.

To discover what that might be, I find it’s helpful to use the Jim Collins’ method of journaling to rate each day and write about what happened to cause it to give you that rating.

Once you have a collection of entries, you can go back and read through them to reflect on what was happening on your good and bad days.

That can give you some clues into what types of activities and routines are life giving for you vs. those that are not. From there, you can try to find a work context or routine that fits that.

I Can’t Stand Working 8 Hours a Day: What to Do?

If you’ve tried other methods of surviving the 8 hour day, and ultimately find that it simply is not going to work for you, then you’ll need to find a non traditional work path. There are a couple of major options that you pursue:

1. Work in an Industry With More Flexibility

In today’s day and age, there are more flexible work options than ever before. The gig economy opens up opportunities to work on your schedule by serving an Uber or Lyft driver, doing deliveries, or performing other tasks on your schedule.

Outside of the gig economy, there are more traditional careers that offer schedule flexibility beyond the typical 8 hour day.

2. Own Your Work Context

The other option is to literally own your work context. That means becoming an investor or entrepreneur and hiring other people to operate businesses on your behalf. This is definitely the most risky option as it requires up front capital, but it can create a great lifestyle if you do it right. The website Contrarian Thinking is a great resource to learn more about this option.

Conclusion

While the 8 hour day, and the normal work day schedule, may be a bit antiquated at this point, it still is the most common work schedule. And if you find it’s not working for you, there are some creative ways that you can optimize your current work context, or create a work situation that is more suitable to your preferences.

About the author

Dan Slocum

Dan is the founder of Best Fit Work and is a business professional with over 10 years of experience. He has been a hiring and people manager on multiple occasions, and has also gone through the hiring process himself at a variety of different companies. Dan serves as a career counselor on the side. He writes to share content, tools, and resources to help people discover and thrive in their own best fit work.

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