The five-day workweek first appeared in 1908, when a New England spinning mill granted its employees Saturday and Sunday off. It was particularly done so that Jewish employees could observe the Sabbath. However, it was automobile revolutionary Henry Ford, who popularized a shorter workweek in 1926, heralding the benefits of improved production as a result of reduced working hours.
The question now is whether reducing working days further would have a comparable effect on work output and the economy? Is the four-day workweek a solution to staff fatigue and declining productivity?
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What Is The Current Scenario?
According to Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trend Index, burnout affects 48% of employees and 53% of administrators. According to Harvard Business Review, Google searches for “burnout symptoms” have already reached an all-time high in 2022. 81% of employees are concerned about burnout this year, according to Mercer’s 2022 Global Talent Trends Study.
In addition, a record number of people chose to quit last year. According to CNBC news, an anticipated 50.5 million people resigned from their jobs in 2022, which has quite popularly been dubbed as “the Great Resignation.”
What factors contribute to burnout? According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s a combination of numerous variables, including a lack of control over your schedule, a work-life imbalance, a high workload, and long hours.
The pandemic intensified job exhaustion, blurring the boundaries between career and personal, and making work more intense in several industries. The pandemic also brought about flexible working, which is now questioning how effective and sustainable our work practices are.
According to a BRINK research, 63% of businesses are willing to consider a four-day workweek. But, can flexible working arrangements and less hours per week help reduce burnout and stress?
4 Day Work-Week As A Cure To Burnout- A Study
Burnout has more than just mental and emotional consequences. Untreated job burnout can lead to insomnia, substance abuse, heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. According to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, the global programs and development manager at 4 Day Week Global, working less hours per week can assist with burnout and stress since it provides everyone more time to rest and recover. 4 Day Week Global is a nonprofit that helped design a pilot study in the UK.
The survey included 61 organizations, and the highlights show that 71% of employees reported decreased levels of burnout, and 39% stated they were less stressed than at the outset of the trial. When compared to the same period the previous year, there was a 65 percent decrease in sick days and a 57 percent decrease in the number of employees who left the participating organizations. Three out of every five employees said it was easier to handle work with both family and social responsibilities, and 62 percent said it was simpler to have a better work-life balance.
Benefits Of A Four Day Work Week
Less Time, More Productive
Though the four-day workweek may appear to be a contemporary phenomena, it has been in the works for decades. Vice President Richard Nixon famously prophesied in 1956 that we will only have to work four days a week “in the not-too-distant future.” However, the subsequent economic crisis blocked any attempts to experiment with it. According to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, the four-day workweek was pushed back due to the growth of hustle culture in the 1980s.
However, after the epidemic altered how work may and should be done, both individuals and businesses considered the prospects of alternative work arrangements. Despite the fact that people are working longer hours, they are not becoming more productive. According to a 2019 Asana poll, workers were only productive 40% of the time, or two days each week. Salary employees reported doing only approximately three hours of meaningful work each day in various surveys.
Many people, now free of the modern office, have recognized that they don’t need five days to fulfill their goals. All thanks to remote and hybrid work. This awareness has fueled the movement for a four-day workweek.
4-Day Workweek Can Benefit Women
According to Soojung-Kim Pang, the four-day work week is beneficial to everyone, but it is especially beneficial to working mothers. According to him, the four-day workweek looks to have benefits for working mothers on the job. “Mothers are frequently stigmatized for being unable to work late or for requesting reduced hours. That stigma fades when everyone has to work together to make a four-day week a success,” says Soojung-Kim Pang.
There’s ample evidence to prove that four-day week companies often prefer working mothers, whom they value for their experience, organizational skills, collaborative ability, time management, and ruthless ability to prioritize. The pandemic erased decades of gains and progress women have made in the workplace. A four-day workweek could help them regain it.
The Bottom Line
Despite the accolades, a four-day workweek is not without flaws. Shortening the week may be less realistic for particular businesses or jobs, such as doctors and teachers. It is often simpler for tech organizations to make the switch because they have nimble operations with workers that work in front of a computer screen, but many other employers cannot — or will not — encourage such a major change.
But as artificial intelligence advances and automates more of our occupations in the next few years, our working hours will most certainly continue to fall, fueling pressure for a shorter workweek.
While the four-day workweek has been shown to reduce job stress, there are numerous additional efforts businesses must make to usher in a more successful workplace, such as supporting and treating their employees equitably. However, for the time being, the four-day workweek has the potential to be an effective and quick remedy to critical workplace issues such as mass resignations and the burnout crisis.