Empowering the Freelance Economy

Scientists say we shouldn’t work an 8-hour day

Can a deadline-dependent freelancer ever get all their work done in less than 8 hours each day? Photo by Sharad Kachhi via Pexels
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OPINION

Is it possible for a deadline-dependent freelancer to work less than 8 hours per day and pay the bills?

I came across an article the other day that questioned the validity of the 8-hour workday. The premise of the article was based on a survey of nearly 2000 UK employees: “The average office worker is productive for just two hours and 53 minutes of their working day.”

When I read that finding, my first thought was you must be joking. Less than 3 hours? The second was where the hell do these people work and are they hiring? Living the life of Riley*…

That stat really made me think hard about how many hours I put into my work each day. Too many over 8 to mention, but then am I being too hard on myself? Can a solo entrepreneur or freelancer compare themselves to an office worker who doesn’t have half the financial worries of a self-employed person? Without knowing the nature of the work of those 2000 surveyed, how can I compare myself to them?

The nature of our jobs plays a huge part

Workplace well-being and increased productivity depend not only on working fewer hours but also on mental workload. Albert Moukheiber, a neuroscientist and clinical psychologist who likes to challenge workplace tradition, says, “Time is just one factor that can be adjusted. If I’m a nurse, and my team is understaffed, reducing my hours won’t change anything. Improving the quality of life at work can depend on a number of aspects including hiring more nurses, boosting salaries, or reducing work hours.”

Freelance content creators and journalists like myself are on daily deadlines. A way of working that can be as thrilling as it can be exhausting. However, for anyone constantly on deadline, we just don’t have time to spare. Are we being asked to do too much work in a shorter span of time? That can often seem the case. Especially when it isn’t just one assignment that is on deadline. Many time-reliant freelancers like myself may feel like they are contestants on Countdown, always racing against the clock wishing Susie Dent in Dictionary Corner would give them a hand.

“You can’t concentrate solely on one assignment for eight hours a day, every day,” says Moukheiber. “Even at work, you engage in various activities like answering emails, attending meetings, and creating reports. Nobody works eight consecutive hours every day. Breaks are necessary; otherwise, we couldn’t function,” he says.

When life creeps into your time

Journalists and other freelancers must take into account that we are human, many of us are parents of school-aged children or others who depend on us, so we have other non-work responsibilities and dramas that creep into our time and we have to be mindful of those. It can be equally said that it might not hurt to turn off the damn news notifications on our mobiles and laptops (even if we are writing the news). Set times for deep work and cross your fingers in the hope that an urgent email from the school, emergency text from the school nurse or your elderly parent doesn’t come in and you don’t respond in time.

Deadlines aside, a shorter workday for anyone including a freelancer can lead to many benefits, such as better quality of life and increased motivation. However, the advantages are most significant for jobs that allow for a clear separation between personal and professional life. Therefore, a prescribed 5 or 8-hour workday is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Would I love to clock off at 5 p.m. each day? Hell yes. Can I do that every day and still pay the bills? Unlikely, but I will surely try.

Check out the article, Should we be working eight hours a day? (welcometothejungle.com)

*Living the life of Riley Idiom

Susie Dent has a new book called Interesting Stories About Curious Words

2 Comments
  1. Dave says

    The standard day in the UK used to be 7 hours, giving a 35 hour working week Business have gradually pused this higher even since, but even now 8 hours is not (yet) the norm, most will work a 7.5 hour office day.

  2. Leon Paczynski says

    The article ignores that some freelancers are working from home on secure workflow platforms which monitors how many hours they are actively involved in a work task. This is then compared with how many hours worked they have declared on their invoice. The result is that they will not be paid for any hours which the monitoring system says they were not actually working.

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