Usually, there are two types of reactions when people hear about a 4-day workweek. Either they’re inspired to reach this goal, or they dismiss the idea as nonsense that only a few fortunate people can be privileged to afford.
Whether you are in the first category or second, you’re in the right place. In this article, I will show you why it should be your goal to achieve a 4-day workweek for the many benefits it provides.
If you would ask me, “does the 4-day workweek boost your productivity for a better balance?”, the answer is a definite yes.
I think you would agree with me that everything seems to work a little better when done in moderation, whether that is sleep, body movement, diet, or other things. If we sleep too much, we are more tired and less motivated. So, I think you see now how important it is to create and maintain balance in all areas. This also includes our work.
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What Does a 4-Day Workweek Have to Do With Productivity?
We all have seven days a week. It would make sense to work three or five days to have a balance between work and rest. So, why it has been standardized to work five and only rest for two? And what does that have to do with our productivity?
If we’re looking at the countries that according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are the most productive and those that are not, we can see a direct correlation between working hours. While Norway, Denmark, and Germany, on average, work around 27 hours a week, Japan and Mexico, nations that are known for overworked employees, rank as least productive while filling longer hours.
The fundamental goal of a 4-day workweek is to improve workers’ quality of life. By working fewer hours overall and having three full days off, people have more time for personal priorities like:
- Spending quality time with family, friends, and pets
- Doctor appointments
- Personal development
- Home maintenance and household management
Before the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 in America, most employees were working seven days a week. History has proven that we thrive better in structure, so someone had shown example and boosted our productivity.
It was none other than Henry Ford who changed the narrative from working every day to working five days a week. He said:
“Just as the eight-hour day opened our way to prosperity in America, so the five-day workweek will open our way to still greater prosperity. It is high time to rid ourselves of the notion that leisure for workers is either lost time or a class privilege.”
It’s Time to Break the Status Quo
While Mr. Ford’s grand change was made for business reasons mostly, it became a movement that soon every industry was adapting. This has led companies to explore productivity even further by experimenting with 4-day workweeks.
“In general, the same amount of stuff gets done in four days than in five, mostly because when you have less time, you tend to compress stuff out that doesn’t matter,” says Basecamp CEO Jason Fried.
“Our employees come back to work refreshed and ready to concentrate,” says Katie Fang, founder, and chief executive officer of SchooLinks
If you’re an entrepreneur, you don’t have to wait for anyone to set your schedule—you choose when and how long to work. Our society is defined by a 9 to 5 framework, with a perception that you have to work long and hard to be successful. And when you are working less and notice that you’re enjoying it, you kind of almost feel bad or ashamed so you hide it, doing meaningless stuff just to fill that time.
Because that’s what you’re supposed to do! Or maybe, it is the time you break that status quo and start valuing your time for real by:
- focusing and doing only what brings results;
- prioritizing your most important tasks;
- delegating tasks that don’t require your genius;
- decluttering your environment and mind to achieve results fast.
Overall work performance improvement is what we’re looking for when addressing productivity. It’s been researched that overworked employees are less productive than employees working an average or normal working week..
How a 4-Day Workweek Can Boost Your Productivity
If you’re looking for proof that a 4-day workweek can boost your productivity, here is the list of things that working less will change for you.
A 2014 study from Stanford University suggests that productivity during 60-hour weeks is less than two-thirds of what it was when 40-hour weeks were worked. While there might not be a magic number of hours that bring the best efficiency in our performance, there is proof.
Working on reduced hours, we tend to be more attentive and work more efficiently to fit necessary tasks into the available time, rather than putting in long, potentially less useful, hours at the desk. Efficiency increases when we try to save time and achieve more in the frame we have, rather than prioritizing less important tasks that don’t bring the optimal value.
The Iceland study between 2015 and 2019 proved that productivity increased when shortening working hours. In the Reykjavík accountancy department, workers processed 6.5% more invoices once they started working fewer hours. At a police station, meanwhile, the shorter workweek didn’t negatively affect the number of investigative cases closed.
New Zealand company, Perpetual Guardian, conducted a trial study for two months. Not only did employees maintain the same productivity level, but they also showed improvements in job satisfaction, teamwork, work/life balance, and company loyalty. Job stress declined from 45% to 38%.. These are amazing results considering that stress is one of the biggest reasons for depression and illnesses.
A key factor is that working fewer hours leads to happier, healthier, more engaged people. A 2021 study that followed Swedish workers for a decade showed that reduced working hours reduced stress, exhaustion, and negative emotion.
When stress goes down, we are more able to create time and energy for hobbies, exercise, errands, friends, and family.
We know that working long hours takes a toll on wellbeing. Shorter hours allow people to feel more rested, better able to juggle complex needs, or even just spend less time distracted by personal tasks at work or doing “busy” work.
When it comes to sleep, consistency is what counts. So, if you’re against routine, this is the area where you should put one in place and stick to it for productivity and balance.
A 2017 study showed that cutting working hours by 25% improved sleep and lowered stress. “There is absolutely no doubt that when people have a good work-life balance and get enough sleep, time with their family, and leisure time, they work much more productively and effectively,” says Jim Stanford, an economist and a director at the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute.
“It changes the focus from hours worked to productivity – that is, from ‘busy work’ to the right work,” says Rachel Service, CEO of Melbourne-based workplace culture consulting and training firm Happiness Concierge.
Happiness has a lot to do with our attention and ability to focus on priorities. Studies have shown that more positive work cultures make workers more engaged. Workers in less positive environments are more likely to make errors, show reduced productivity, and be absent more often.
When given limited time, our focus tends to shift from unimportant to important prioritizing more effectively. Saving time while maintaining focus is what time frame gives us, therefore, our productivity increases.
Whenever we put a time limit on a task, we tend to focus on it that much better. Try it for yourself.
As you can see above, there are many great benefits and areas worth considering when shifting to a 4-day workweek. Whatever your motivation might be, I challenge you to experiment and test the concept for yourself. Only this way will you know what suits you best.
But remember that it is not just about cutting down the hours but also about achieving more. To move forward, you need to understand what it is that you would do with that extra time. Being clear on goals is something to thrive for.
A 4-day workweek is one valuable option for many companies and entrepreneurs to adapt as technology would make it possible for a business to continue as usual while humans can still have meaningful careers with a better work-life balance.
Each of us now has a choice to make a 4-day workweek a new normal. It will require making a cultural and mindset shift and taking a hard look at work activities that can be automated, deprioritized, or eliminated. Only by emphasizing results instead of hours logged can we continue the “balanced” road we’ve already started and overcome the discomfort around change
Featured photo credit: Adelin Preda via unsplash.com