Despite clocking eight hours at the office every day, the average employee only works for about three hours—or more precisely, two hours and 53 minutes. That's according to a 2016 survey of 1989 UK office workers, which found that employees typically spend the rest of their time reading the news, browsing social media, socializing with co-workers, eating, taking smoke breaks, and even searching for new jobs.
Believe it or not, this finding isn't new; multiple studies have shown that people can only focus for short periods of time, and taking breaks throughout the workday will improve productivity in the long run. In other words, we're simply not built for the eight-hour workday (or we at least won't be productive the entire time).
"If you're pushing people well beyond that time they can concentrate maximally, you're likely to get them to acquire some bad habits," said K. Anders Ericsson, an expert on the psychology of work, to Business Insider. This reality is what's prompting a growing number of companies to switch to shorter workdays or even a four-day workweek.
Take Treehouse, a technology education company that switched to a 32-hour workweek back in 2006. "It's not about more family time, or more play time, or less work time—it's about living a more balanced total life," said CEO Ryan Carson to The Atlantic. "We basically take ridiculously good care of people because we think it's the right thing to do."
Generally speaking, psychologists believe that working a shorter workweek will make people more refreshed, less stressed, and possibly more productive. "Employers may be getting much more out of their employees if they only work 50% or 75% of the current work hours," concluded Ericsson.
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