Many of us often feel like there's not enough time in a day to do all that we'd like to, even with the best time management hacks and tricks. Recent research has shown that almost 50% of people have reported that they "do not have enough time to do what they want to do," even when, again, according to research, more than half of us outsource chores to make more time for, well, doing what we want to do.
Why does it seem like Sunday is just Monday Eve—like we aren't truly getting a full 48 hours at least to have that "me" time or to simply enjoy activities that aren't attached to housework, responsibilities, grocery shopping or trying to get ahead of work we'll face on Monday?
Even as a self-employed professional with a pretty flexible work lifestyle, I feel the same way, and while my work day might differ from a 9-to-5er, the responsibilities and sense of obligation to tasks are quite similar.
One weekend, I found myself having a mini adult tantrum, coming to terms with the reality that I'd spent the bulk of my free time doing housework, making Target and Ikea runs, and finally cleaning up the disaster that is my office. In a moment of calm after that storm, I thought to myself, "What's the real issue here? We stopped working 9-to-5s to get rid of the Sunday Scaries, so what's the deal?" Beyond the usual challenges of life, I absolutely love the clients and brands I work with. So, I had to figure out what was behind the anxiety and annoying lump in my throat.
I went down a Google rabbit hole, and there it was: the 4-day work week. It's what Belgium, Japan, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates have adopted, by law, in some form or another. There are even companies in the U.S. that have incorporated three- or four-day work weeks at some time or another (with some currently adhering to such policies) including Basecamp, Kickstarter, and thredUp.
While this sort of work structure might not work for all industries or jobs (especially those centered on emergency or healthcare services), it's worth thinking about if your job can accommodate it. Here are the top reasons it might be a good fit and insights that you could literally take to your boss to propose a change:
It helps combat absenteeism.
Research published by WeForum shows that the rate of absences for working professionals often decreases with the four-day workweek structure. In 2020, British companies that incorporated such schedules reported saw these benefits, and at the 2022 Davos World Economic Forum, a United Arab Emirates government official stated that he saw a 55% decrease in absenteeism among employees with a four-day workweek implemented.
According to Basecamp's website, their employees have 32-hour work weeks in the summer, and there's a clear indication that this is done to ensure that professionals are working at their best and with balance. "Keeping our hours at work limited forces us to prioritize the work that really matters," the U.S.-based company's site reads. "A healthy amount of sleep and a rich and rewarding life outside of work should not be squandered for a few more hours at work."
If your company has been plagued by high turnover or people constantly calling out, this might be a good reason to bring to your management team as to why the four-day work week might be good to consider. And with phenomenons like quiet quitting and the Great Resignation being issues for many companies, it's a consideration worth prioritizing.
It is linked to better productivity.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, full-time U.S. workers work 8.5 hours per day, and for a 5-day workweek, this amounts to 42.5 weekly hours. Stanford University research shows that hourly productivity drops significantly after 50 hours per week, and after 55 hours per week, productivity is so low that any hours worked beyond that are not even worth the effort. In another study, almost 2,000 professionals who were surveyed admitted to doing work-related tasks for only 2.5 hours during a day, often spending other hours on the internet, scrolling through social media, or procrastinating.
Research has also shown that professionals have indicated they can do their work in fewer hours, with one survey showing 51% stating they could do their jobs "to the fullest extent" in 40 hours or less.
Again, in proposing such a change to your manager or HR department, there should be an issue with productivity that exists. You can also go another route by presenting the facts of your exemplary performance, how the effect of cutting your hours allows you to continue to thrive in your role and won't hinder another team member's or department's success, and evidence of how you spend your work day. This is a great way to rally for a four-day workweek for yourself.
It's the competive thing to do to keep talent.
Let's face it: Since COVID-19 shifted how businesses function, the traditional way of looking at how much time we spend at work (or even in the office) has gone by the wayside. While we all can't necessarily take four days off per month and do our jobs well, some of us have found that by adjusting the way we manage our time, utilizing technology and automation to our benefit (Heeeey email, food delivery, and automatic payment scheduling!), and really tapping into what matters to us in life beyond a job title or office, the approach to working "hard" has changed.
With at least 20 large powerhouse companies in the U.S. incorporating the practice and hundreds of other small businesses and startups having already adopted it as a major new-hire attraction, there are options out there to work not only remote but to have one day a week off. And there are companies that don't decrease the pay in those 32-hour schedules. If you're an amazing professional with unique talents and skills, go where the company's practices and principles match the lifestyle you're building (or want to build).
Just remember, when asking your management team or boss for a four-day workweek, there are several factors at play that go beyond an individual need. Do your research on the issues your company faces, the impact a four-day workweek would have on the whole company, and the pros and cons of it.
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Featured image by Luis Alvarez/Getty Images