The Myth of the 8-Hour Workday

The Takeaway
January 6, 2014

On January 5, 1914, the Ford Motor Company announced its intention to implement the eight-hour workday, for which Ford employees would be paid $5.00 a day. 

One hundred years later, Lizabeth Cohen, professor of American Studies at Harvard University and dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, reflects on Ford's intentions and the company's impact. While the company's policies may seem benevolent today, Cohen explains that in reality, Ford implemented the eight-hour/$5.00 day to grow the company's bottom line. 

Today, for many Americans, working just eight hours a day seems like a dream come true.

Thanks to globalization, smartphones and increasing competition, most of us work much more than eight hours a day, rising early for meetings with colleagues half a world away or burning the midnight oil to meet demanding deadlines.

Pamela Hinds is a professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University, where she also co-directs the Center for Work, Technology and Organization. She examines how technology is transforming the workplace and how we balance work and life at home. 


 Lizabeth Cohen and Pamela Hinds


 Jillian Weinberger


 T.J. Raphael
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