The Instigator
Pro (for)
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The Contender
Con (against)
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Work-Life Balance is a myth ; It doesn't exist for the average person.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/11/2015 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 626 times Debate No: 80810
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
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The 8/8/8 work-life-sleep thing is a myth. It's certainly better than the 12 hours a day people had at factories in the 1800's. But as society gets wealthier and technology improves, shouldn't we get another reduction?

There are 24 hours in a work day.

8 hours of sleep
9 hours of work (not 8 because of unpaid lunch hours, and overtime)
1 hour commute
1 hour hygiene/bathing
1 hour eating/cooking
1 hour exercise

That leaves 3 hours left, time for maybe a movie and a phone call. God forbid you have to handle a court case, settle bill payments, take a really long poop, fix your broken car, nurse a wound, have a traffic jam hold you up or the like.

So you basically have 9 hours of work and MAYBE 3 hours of living, if you can even move and don't have all of your energy sucked. A 3:1 ratio.

Living in the biological sense is breathing and maintaining basic functions. LIVING in the actual sense is going out places, traveling, meeting new people, working on projects, enjoying the arts, spirituality and such.

Yes, there's the weekend to partially balance it out, if you still have the energy by then. But even so, only being able to actually live 2/7's of your life isn't too good.

A real work-life balance would maybe be something like 6 hours per day, 4 days a week.


I accept and look forward to an interesting, and relatively quick, debate.

Based on taking in all of Pro's round 1, the resolution solidified appears to be:

Workers should demand a 24 hour work week so that work can be balanced more with leisure

Technical note: Pro uses the term (all caps) LIVING to define that part of life that we get enjoyment out of. I will use this form for the sake of clarity & brevity.

Contention 1: defining "LIVING"

Pro's definition of LIVING is unfortunate and will cheat them out of the joy that is life. Defining tasks such as sleeping, commutes, hygiene, eating, cooking and exercise as not LIVING is the wrong approach.

Those who enjoy life to it's fullest take advantage of the time at work to LIVE. Although this is highly dependent on chosen career, at the very least making friends and socializing is an important part of work. In fact, those who do so tend to work together more effectively leading to productivity gains, which will, in the long run, reduce work hours. Those who view life as only occurring outside of work are cheating themselves out of LIVING.

I personally enjoy both the time leading up to sleep and the five minutes I give myself after waking before I get out of bed. Five minutes may stretch to ten (I set my alarm early) if I've had a dream worth pondering.

The same general idea applies to commutes (I listen to favorite audio books), hygiene (who doesn't enjoy a hot shower on a cold day?), and certainly eating and cooking (one of lifes great pleasures).

Contention 2: natural trends in hours worked

As Pro alludes to in round 1, work hours are much lower than in the past. In fact, works hours have been slowly and naturally, trending down for centuries. In the end, there are many ways that employers provide benefits to workers. These include health care, education, retirement, etc. The combination of these benefits reflects trends in productivity, which is driven by technological advances. Pro's desire for a extreme jump in time off can only be accomplished by extreme advances in productivity, that which has never been seen in history.

Contention 3: life span

We should also note another historic trend that works in favor of LIVING. We live longer so get more out of life already. Pro's asking for even more is to be understood as a natural human trait. The wanting of more is one trait that helped humans become the most successful animal on earth. It would seem that, despite once living short, brutish lives of nothing more than "work, eat and sleep", we naturally will always ask for more.

Contention 4: hours worked as a choice

To an extent, work hours is a choice. According to career site, most employees don't even take the vacation they are entitled to: In fact, 25% of employees take 25% or less of vacation time while only 25% take 100% of vacation time. If employees simply started taking all their vacation time and would push back a bit on hours per day, work hours per year would trend down somewhat faster (while other benefits trends would slow to counter this).

Work hours is a choice in other ways. For example, while the pay isn't necessarily great, teachers generally have a leisurely summer. This is a choice one makes. Additionally, those who are trying to "climb the ladder" will work more than 40 hours a week. More choices.

In summary, I sincerely hope Pro could see to take my advice and learn to LIVE life to it's fullest.

Debate Round No. 1


I never suggested that a 24 hour work week is the best solution for the economy. If we have to work 40 hours a week, we have to work 40 hours a week. All I'm saying is that it's not balanced, and if we were given the opportunity to work less hours (maybe a future where machines can run more things for us), 24 hours of work would be closer to ideal than 40.

0 hours of work is too little to feel a sense of fulfilment. People generally want to be needed somewhere. But 40 hours, like I outlined, leaves little time to spend with your circle of friends, extended family and with other hobbies/projects you're working on.

I'm not saying we can't enjoy or take pride in cooking/eating, our hygiene, our commute and such. But these are not meaningful pursuits in the sense that the more you do them, the more something is built. Relationships are built. Hobbies are built. In Mazlows hierarchy of needs, those things are on the bottom, and alongside work, that leaves little time for people to achieve their highest needs.

Another factor is time perception. 9 hours at a regular job often feels like 12-16 hours in slow motion, whereas doing something you really love for hours feels like minutes. Of course, this depends on the job. But if you look at the majority of jobs out there, like

Regarding your point on work hours declining, they are lower than centuries ago when children were working 12 hour shifts. But compared to a decade ago, it's worse. With the effects of the recession, it's not uncommon for someone losing their $25/hour job and having to work two $14/hr jobs in its place.

Regarding the point of people taking less vacations, it's because vacations (at least in the United States) aren't mandatory and one can be fired at will. If someone takes a vacation and ends up less productive than the person next to them who is working 52 weeks a year instead of 50, as a result, they can get laid off. It's not really a choice when there's no guarentee in place.

Being a teacher is a more flexible schedule, but not everyone can be a teacher. Most people have to work 40 hours a week in retail, food service and such. And regardless of whether teachers are underpaid or not, they more than the majority of people.


I feel perhaps the goal post is moving on me. In round 1, without a clear resolution, I focused on two statements for clarification:

"But as society gets wealthier and technology improves, shouldn't we get another reduction?"

"A real work-life balance would maybe be something like 6 hours per day, 4 days a week."

and then proposed a resolution:

"Workers should demand a 24 hour work week so that work can be balanced more with leisure"

Since Pro has admitted their knowledge of the natural downward trend in work hours, stating "shouldn't we get another reduction?" clearly refers to a reduction beyond the trend brought about by normal technology & productivity improvements. It was only natural for me to assume the second statement was to be take literally and as a desire in the here and now, not something that would be nice in the future.

In fact, a firm resolution is not yet defined. If voters side with my stated resolution, I'd claim the debate is won since Pro appears to concede a 24 hour work week is unattainable. Otherwise, it appears I'm left making counter claims to Pro's dreams of a desired utopian state. If the debate is simply that Pro knows best of their desires of an ideal work balance, I concede. I can't possible claim otherwise. But this hardly seems fair. At the very least, Pro must admit some change to the status quo that applies across society.

If Pro concedes the necessity of a 40 hour work week, but yet desires a change to the status quo that improves on LIVING, the way to do this is as I've outlined in my Content #1 from round 1, defining LIVING. This strategy for life that expands the scope of LIVING has not been fully countered by Pro in round 2. I note two things about Pro's round 2 text:

1) friends and relationships can be built at work. Two items are left: one, extended family. I would argue that most people find the few holidays a year are plenty of time for this. Those that disagree are those fortunate families who are very close and should really consider living closer together. Two, hobbies: but hobbies are a luxury. Pro has already conceded the necessity of the 40 hour work week. Where are these other hours to come from?

2) Pro's round reads a bit like a personal discussion of their own desires and life. For example, Pro states which activities are meaningful to them and that the work day goes by slowly. But surely others feel differently about this and, as I've stated above, it would be unreasonable for me to be expected to make counter claims to Pro's own stated subjective values. I can just as easily claim that the work day goes by quickly (which it usually does for me).

Again, Pro concedes declining work hours over time. It may be true that somebody lost a 25$/hr job and replaced it with two 14$/hr jobs. But Pro's implies that it takes 28$/hr to LIVE the same life as with the prior higher paying job. However, the concession of the declining work hours also concedes a general trend of a higher standard of living since workers could simply choose to work more hours (second part-time jobs) rather than accept reduced work hours. Since this trend is conceded, it is Pro's burden to show both a declining standard of living and it's relevance to the resolution (whatever it may be).

I don't find Pro's example of one worker being laid off due to taking vacation compelling. It assumes those who choose not to take granted vacation due so in order to avoid being fired or laid off. The glass is always half-empty. My own experience is that, if this does happen to an employ, they were likely marginal anyway. For any desirable employ, vacation is a choice. My example of a teacher was only an example. Pro, or anyone for that matter, could find other ways to work less than 40 hours a week. Of course this will result in a reduction of income, but these are economic choices we all have to make.

I'll end by noting that my contention 3, live span, was dropped so I extend that argument.

Debate Round No. 2


My resolution is and has been, "Those who claim (that for most people) there is a real work-life balance they are wrong".

I never stated any other terms. I NEVER stated that society would be better off with a work week reduction. Only that individual people who are able to survive working 24 hours a week are lucky

I'm not suggesting any call-to-action. I'm just stating an observation, and one you happen to disagree with.

And again, there's no downward trend in work hours. There was a decline from 12 hours a day to 8-9 hours a day in the early 1900's. It's been nearly entire century without another reduction. A trend is when something continually happens. When something only happens once and then nothing happens for 75+ years, it's not a trend.

On family relationships, I have two disagreements:
1) A few holidays each year aren't enough time to truly get to know and build deep meaningful relationships.
2) Living close together is not always a feasibility since everyone has a different economic situation. One might have to, for example, quit their job or double their daily commute. And a myriad of other sacrifices.

You state that one can simply just choose to reduce their work hours. Millions of people needs two part-time jobs just to survive. Believe me, if everyone could just decide to accept reduced work hours and still live well, I wouldn't even be having this discussion. But if many people chose to work less hours, they'd have difficulty buying groceries and paying rent.

Telling someone "You can work less hours but you'll be destitute" or "You need to work more hours or you won't be competitive enough for our company" isn't giving them too much of a choice.

Some countries require paid vacation. The United States doesn't. When someone barely gets vacation time simply because they can't afford it, that's not a real choice. That's not "work-life balance".

Regarding your point of increased life span as a counter-argument:
1) One is still going to have a life heavily slanted toward work (and less toward family/leisure/other fulfilling pursuits) for ~50 years, regardless.
2) An increased life span means one can live to 90 instead of 80, but does this mean people have to wait until they're retired (65-75) to have a sizable amount of free time? What happens if you die at age 45? Then you didn't have much of a life and all of those hours at the office didn't matter.
3) People living to 100+ (which is perfectly feasible as medicine gets better) will be more of an economic strain when you're dealing with 20 years of retirement versus 40. Workers will have to work even more hours so they can save more money for a longer retirement and they will have to pay more taxes (to keep Social Security solvent).

Increased life span will just make those 50 working years even tougher, and even less of a balance.


As we come to the final round, Pro now states the resolution is:

"Those who claim (that for most people) there is a real work-life balance they are wrong"

There is nothing in round 1 that would allude to Pro's resolution being about what others claims are. I feel it's within my rights to ignore this resolution, as it appears in the last round, and technically I'm not to bring new arguments. What does "real" mean here anyway? I would assume it means a 24 hour work week, but Pro state this isn't the case.

However, as it turns out, my arguments from round 1 will work nicely to counter even this resolution. Each individuals work-life balance is a demonstrated preference based on subjective value. Does Pro get a say in what others subjective values should be?

In round 1, my Contention 1 talks about ways in which individuals get value from their day, whether that is from work, eating, or other leisure activities. Of course, because of the economics of scarce resources, we must all work enough hours to provide basic food, clothing and shelter, a point Pro concedes. Beyond that each individual chooses based on their own personal preferences.

Also in round 1, my Contention 4 talks about how we all make choices that balance income with leisure. This can e based on career choice, vacation time, overtime taken, choosing part-time jobs, etc.

At this point, I feel like my job is done in this debate. I feel I've refuted a resolution that I had to wrestle out of my opponent. The rest of Pro's arguments add nothing new to this. However, for the sake of completeness, I'll go through them:

Work hours

There is a documented general trend of reduced work hours. My first reference shows this up 1988:

while the reference below from the St. Lous Fed shows a general downward trend from 1950 to 2011:

Family relationships

Pro is simply stating the different people have different circumstances. Well, yes, they do. And again, Pro concedes that economics dictates that we all must work. If an extended family really valued the closeness of their relationship very highly, they can CHOOSE to all live nearby. The fact that they don't means they value other things more highly. This is the "balance" that Pro claims is a myth. Pro not desires the impossible, but also wishes others to desire as they do.

Choice of work hours

Pro states:

"Millions of people needs two part-time jobs just to survive."

We are talking about the United States here. Land of the SNAP food assistance program, and a myriad of other welfare programs. I suspect Pro is playing loose with the definition of "survive". Here are a couple links with stories of people who lived on very little:

Lived on minimum wage after graduating and struggling to find a job

How to live on 500$/mo

Again from Pro:

"Believe me, if everyone could just decide to accept reduced work hours and still live well, I wouldn't even be having this discussion. "

I'm not making claims about "everyone". These are choices individuals make - economic choices. Choices between work and leisure. And where did "living well" come from? I too wish I could simply set my own rules about the number of hours I work and still live well.

Pro's discussion regarding increased life span is more of the same. Claiming that an increased life span makes our lives worse because we have more time to suffer through work is ridiculous. This debate seems to have turned into Pro's personally rant that they work too much.

Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Emilrose 2 years ago
Where exactly do you get these 'statistics' from?

People can have variable working hours and the majority of those I know still have time to 'enjoy' their lives. For example, the additional hours that you're referring to really only apply to the morning for most people--especially if they live near their work.

And who says that exercise is compulsory? That is technically an option; that many people (especially if they do it while *at* work) don't take.
Posted by Cart 2 years ago
This is not to mention that you're 9 hours at work move in bullet time and your 3 hours of leisure move like a speeding train. Making it more like a 6:1 ratio.
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