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Bosses and managers take heed: A study of shorter workdays in Europe shows a six-hour workday increases employee efficiency and productivity while having the merciful, beneficial and salutary effects of reducing absences and stress.

“That doesn’t seem surprising,” writes Jean Hannah Edelstein at The Guardian. “Anyone who can put in a twelve-hour day at work and apply the same level of focus and enthusiasm to the twelfth hour as they did to the first or third hours is … well, I’d reckon they’re unusual, if not superhuman.”

People live in fear of being the first person to close their laptop, or to ignore a work email on the weekend, in case that makes them look like they don’t care.

I worked in one company that offered special workshops in maintaining work-life balance but where I was also advised to work on evenings and weekends. They also wanted me to cover for a job on my team that was unfilled for six months, and shouted at me as if I was a recalcitrant child when I agreed to come to an after-hours event but indicated that I wouldn’t be staying until the bitter end because I had a personal commitment.

And scenarios like this are just the case for salaried workers: people who have the luxuries of jobs that offer them living wages, and give them access to benefits like health insurance, paid vacation days, occasional paternal leave. For many American minimum-wage workers, the thought of a 40-hour week is but a distant dream: a 2014 study found that in most parts of the country, they’d need to work an average of 2.6 jobs to afford to rent one-bedroom apartments.

The presumptive Republican nominee seems to intimate to his followers that they’ll become successful and upwardly mobile if they just work as hard as he did, but the truth is that many of the poorest Americans are working far harder than that, without any chance of improving their lives. A six-hour work day sounds like a great idea. A 40-hour work week is a distant fantasy for far too many. As a nation we’ll have to start valuing the physical and emotional health of workers before we begin to come close to achieving that kind of American dream.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly

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