Should the 40-hour work week continue?

It was 158 years ago, in 1865, upon the passage and ratification of the 13th amendment to the Constitution, that slavery was finally ended.  

And just 25 years later, the U.S. government was beginning to get the knack of keeping track of employees’ hours just as Black people in the nation were beginning to stand their ground despite the harsh reality and circumstances that followed slavery. According to, statistics show that the average manufacturing worker put in roughly 100 hours of labor a week.

That averaged 20 hours a day, for a five-day workweek, which is inconceivable, to some, in the context of the existing regular workweek.

Overworking staff became a thing of the past as time went on thanks to the precautions that were put in place. The adoption of Ford Motor Company’s five-day, 40-hour workweek in 1926 was a significant step in the right direction, even though it was implemented so as to run the factory 24 hours a day. 

Following fatal workplace incidents, worker strikes, and White House support, the 40-hour workweek was eventually implemented as part of FDR’s New Deal, according to NBC.

The work week that is even in place today is one that hundreds of thousands of companies across the country and internationally use as standard practice.   

Yet, many professionals have called it into question—saying that it is antiquated, especially as the pandemic forced many white-collar employees to work from home disrupting the status quo of the typical Monday-to Friday-workflow, particularly as competing personal responsibilities grew.   

BambooHR reports that other options are available such as a four-day work week, which reportedly improves productivity in the timeframe.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said to CEO Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of media group Axel Springer, that work-life balance is not solely about balance. 

“My view is, that’s a debilitating phrase because it implies there’s a strict trade-off,” he said. “And the reality is, if I am happy at home, I come into the office with tremendous energy. And if I am happy at work, I come home with tremendous energy. It actually is a circle; it’s not a balance.”

Ascend Staffing said, “not so fast,” as there are some advantages to working 40 hours a week such as the ability to maintain a routine.

Cherri Harris, CEO and founder of Swint Logistics Group, Inc., which specializes in trucking/hauling and consulting services, told the Michigan Chronicle recently that her work is anything but routine, especially in the past roughly 15 years when she was a trucker working long hours—well beyond the 40-hour mark.

Harris, who wouldn’t have it any other way, said that before working in this industry she was in health care and worked odd hours, sometimes going beyond the standard 40.

“I have never been conditioned to a 40-hour work week probably since the ‘90s,” she said, adding that sometimes 40 hours isn’t enough and sometimes it’s too much. “Some weeks 40 hours just won’t do depending on goals and deadlines.”

The solution?

Harris says that as a small business owner she does not necessarily take things for granted even with a 40-hour-work week, or one can potentially look for other opportunities more in line with one’s desired schedule. 

“Truck drivers by law are allowed to work 70 hours a week and that’s just a regular work week,” Harris said, to put things in perspective.


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