The promised 15-hour workweek came, but no one noticed it

In 1930, British economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) predicted that technological change and productivity improvements would eventually lead to a 15-hour workweek. But today most of the people still work 40 hours or more per week or more.

John Maynard Keynes

So what happened or did something happen?

I bet most of you haven’t heard of this prediction before. Why? Well, because most people would say that John Maynard Keynes was wrong. Since, when you look around, you see that most people are not anywhere close to the 15-hour workweek, even 40-hour workweek is seen as a luxury, and the reality is being somewhere around 50 hours. Right? No. Wrong.

15 hour week has been around for some time already

John Maynard Keynes was absolutely right: what he predicted happened. Today it’s possible to work only 15 hours a week and make a good living, even if you haven’t inherited a fortune from your parents like it was during his time. For example, if you make $100 per hour, 15 hours a week will roughly make you $6000 per month, which is a nice salary for western world standards. There is actually a great number of people that follow this path, and I’m one of them. Of course, we are still a minority, but that’s the problem of the rest, not ours.

John Maynard Keynes was an economist, not a psychologist

He told that it would be possible and achievable, but he didn’t take into account the madness of the humankind. He didn’t think that someone who had a chance to work a few hours a day, to be healthy, happy and afford a nice living would be crazy enough to exchange all that for a lot of stress, no free time, little sleep and 10-hour workdays to afford a bunch of status-related stuff with which he would be able to impress other people that also work their ass off and feel miserable. He couldn’t picture that, and I can’t blame him, because I’m having a hard time picturing that myself, even when I see this everywhere around me.

 Only a few take advantage of 15-hour workweek

There are practically millions of wealthy people who can afford to work only a few hours per day, but they don’t. It even seems (with some exceptions) that the wealthier the person is, the more he works? Why? It’s supposed to be the other way around! When you are rich, you can afford to take it easy and chill, but people only make their lives harder in chasing acceptance, recognition, and valuation.

People are slaves

That’s the definition of people. They are slaves by their nature; slaves of their hopes, dreams and needs, of social criticism and traditions, of acceptance, recognition and valuation. Most of the thing people do is only because, at some point in their life, someone with authority told them that it’s how things are done and they believed it. They never question it again, even if they absorbed that information when they were only kids. This is quite strange, since obviously when they grew up they got smarter and could review their previous behaviour more maturely. But they don’t, for the reason of being slaves of their habits. Of course, for the government, it’s good and easy, since for that reason people obey laws and don’t question them, but for the individual, it’s incredibly damaging. Only the minority of people can escape the chains of the slavery of the mind.

Work smart, not hard

However, I do agree that shifting from 40-hour workweek to 15 is hard in practice. Since you have been disciplined to it your entire life, starting from school and by the time you get into working life, you already have followed that rhythm for over a decade. Also it’s quite hard to find a well-paid job where you have to work a few hours a day, especially at the beginning of your career, unless you start working for yourself. Most likely, 15 hours workweek becomes a reality for you when you are in your 30s or 40s. That’s also the first time in your life you may think about making it easier or “retiring” early.

How to achieve a 15-hour workweek?

  • The easiest way to achieve a 15-hour workweek is to work for yourself. Convincing your boss for you to work less may not turn out to be successful.
  • If you have your own business, hire more people to help you and outsource as much as possible.
  • If you are a consultant or a freelancer, raise your fee and see a decrease of clients. Most likely, in the end, your monthly earnings will not change.
  • Don’t waste time on unimportant stuff. Travelling around the world and attending conferences may sound like a cool thing to do, but the effects are minimal compared to the time spent on it.
  • And most importantly set your priorities correctly. Do you need that 300 m2 house and a Ferrari, or maybe sticking with 100 m2 apartment and a BMW while working two times less will be better? Will you be able to enjoy your wealth, if all you do it work? Money is important, but don’t trade all your time for it.

In the future we will have only a couple hour workweek

As the technology advances and robots will take over human jobs, we will no longer have to work at all. All we will have to do is own a company that is ran by robots, and the AI will take care of the rest. In this scenario only periodic checking, decision making and performing legal procedures will be required, which will only take couple hours hour per week, giving us absolute freedom to do whatever we want with our time. But even this vast opportunity scares more people than it gives hope to. People are the slaves of their habits.


Filip Poutintsev, the Chief Editor of Honest Pros and Cons, is a long term business writer, who has been featured in various online publications such as Forbes, CoinTelegraph and HackerNoon. Now he writes exclusively for Honest Pros and Cons.