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How Much Work Is Enough?

After three years of COVID-19-related disruptions, many workers have no intention of reverting to their pre-pandemic work routines. Millions of workers have realized that life is about more than productivity, potentially heralding the most significant labor-market transformation since the dawn of the industrial age.

WASHINGTON, DC – The COVID-19 pandemic might be officially over, but much like a railway switchyard, it has already diverted countless lives onto wildly different paths. Millions of individuals will never revert to their pre-pandemic work routines, compelling both employers and employees to establish new models that cater to their evolving needs. But amid the ongoing experiments with hybrid models, we find ourselves confronting a deeper question: How much work is enough?

At least in developed countries, these post-pandemic shifts and experiments could trigger a labor-market revolution as profound as the changes in workplaces, schedules, and compensation that marked the transition from the agricultural age to the industrial era.

These changes can be viewed on two levels. At the macro level, the legally mandated eight-hour workday and 40-hour workweek are gradually giving way to a new equilibrium. This will likely be a long process, given that it took half a century of labor struggles, union action, and corporate experimentation to reduce daily working hours in the United States from 14 to eight and workweeks from seven days to five.

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