The eight-hour workday is precious and humane, and difficult to find in an era of always-on communication.
But there are two kinds of 9 to 5 jobs.
The first one is the industrialized cog. Protect yourself, do as little as you can, because the boss will always take more. This is the standard, and the source of the expression about watching the clock.
The other one is the linchpin. This is the contributor who brings so much emotional energy, thoughtfulness, risk-taking and passion to the job that they leave nothing in reserve. Eight hours of this sort of work is a choice, and it’s a privilege if you care about the work you’re doing. It’s also plenty. It’s plenty because of instead of ‘more’, you went for ‘deeper.’
When we see passionate people at work (at a chess tournament, a brainstorming session, writing a play or counseling), we have trouble imagining doing it for six hours in a row, never mind eight.
It’s no wonder hours have been expanding. If we’re coasting through our day, it’s the only way for the imagination-challenged boss to create more productivity. More low-value hours for no more pay. More hours is the only option if you’re not willing to put your heart into it.
The alternative is to figure out how to go all in, to make a ruckus and then to stand back and catch your breath.
If you’re lucky enough to have the choice, it’s worth seeing that you have the choice.