Jeremy Rifkin, the socio-economic visionary, has been saying for years now that technology and automation will eventually get us to a place where we may only need to work about four hours a day to earn a living. That is incidentally the amount of time indigenous people spend on average to collect food. Yuval Noah Harari writes in Homo Deus that we have been pretty successful at bringing famine, plague and warfare under control, issues that have kept us sleepless and busy for millenia.
Over here in the US we are overworked and often required to be available 24/7 via cellphone in a corporate world more driven by perceived busyness than true focused productivity. But Sweden has experimented with a 6-hour workday (although it's apparently not conducive in an entrepreneurial environment), Germany is on a 35hr week/7hr day and is currently trying a 28hr week/5.5hr day. So experimentation with the best work-life balance is underway in the more forward thinking cultures.
But what will we do with ourselves as we are evolving beyond being busy with fire fighting, at least in industrialized countries. As we look at the shift in our Western culture, we see the answer already emerging - the pursuit of happiness, as Harari points out! Between a vastly improved standard of living and not worrying about an early death from famine or warfare, and the slow shift to a shorter work week, we will have more time to take care of our inner life. Perhaps we will focus more on the quality of life, the quality of our free time. Perhaps we will take more time to reflect on how we eat, how we grow our food, how we think, how we treat the environment, how we treat each other.
It's a process and it's not happening by tomorrow, but the seeds for a shift are germinating. What will you do?