How to change this perception? One solution would be for God to admit that He did it all from Tuesday to Thursday, but only claimed it took six days to avoid making it seem too easy. Failing this, the human solution would be to look further back in history. There is a tendency to believe that the five-day convention was an improvement on all previous working hours, but it was an improvement only on the shockingly long hours worked in the aberrant nineteenth century. In pre-industrial Europe peasants often worked for as little as half the year. Harvard economist Juliet Schor has estimated recently that in fourteenth-century England, the average peasant work-year was a mere 150 days, a figure to make any contemporary wage slave envious and any American corporate lawyer suicidal.
The Middle Ages took the pragmatic view that work was a tedious necessity to be given as little time as possible, but in the course of the Industrial Revolution work became more of a duty, even a calling. One explanation of how this came about is Max Weber’s famous essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. For Weber, the change was brought about by the peculiar nature of Reformation Protestantism, which encouraged a view of worldly success as the mark of the saved and worldly failure as the mark of the damned. I find Weber’s thesis entirely plausible, though it has been hotly disputed, especially by Protestants and capitalists.
What seems incontestable is that, for whatever reason, work has become for many a sort of substitute religion, a source of the religious reassurances of meaning, purpose and identity.
Source: Why We Work Too Much » IAI TV