A lot has happened in 73 years. Yet despite all the advances in technology, there’s one outdated thing that still persists … working 40 hours, five days a week. And if you run a business, often that number is much higher.
Victorian workers were among the first in the world to shift to eight-hour days back in 1856, and the traditional workweek as we know it, became law back in 1948. It’s been 73 years, and we think it’s time for a change.
As COVID-19 swiftly taught us, we don’t have to work in an office to be productive. Neither do we need to work between the hours of 9 to 5, but if we don’t set some parameters, work can easily seep into every facet of our lives.
Companies globally are looking for solutions to deal with the availability creep and the ‘collective burnout’ experienced by employees working through the stress of the pandemic. Bumble recently gave all workers a paid week off and many businesses are delivering care packages to their workers in lockdown. No one has the silver bullet, but there’s no denying work needs to look different beyond 2021. Healthcare professionals across the world are warning the blurring of work/home boundaries, longer hours and the increased work pressure of the pandemic are leading to a ‘tsunami’ of mental health issues. We’re already seeing this with ‘languishing’ becoming the dominant emotion this year.
Here at Transitioning Well, we’re taking the lead of many excellent companies before us and trialling a four-day workweek. We’ve been aiming to get to four-days for years, and it’s still very much a work in progress. Not taking calls or scheduling meetings on Fridays is a hard habit to break. Yet during lockdown 5.0, we’re now making this a priority to ensure we have the energy to sustain our business (and ourselves) effectively for the long haul.
As co-directors of the company, Justine and I have been discussing how this can possibly work when our services run right across the week. For us, it may not mean taking every Friday off but reducing hours to ensure work isn’t always blurring into our personal lives – and that we build in recovery time. As we found last week, if those boundaries aren’t in place, like many of us, we’ll work straight through what is meant to be our time off. We love what we do, but as psychologists in the pandemic, we can’t help others if we don’t look after ourselves first.
Starting today, we’re having a reset. A reset of our non-negotiables to ensure we’re establishing healthy work-life boundaries.
A few of our new non-negotiables:
As evidence-based practitioners, we’re curious about the research around working less. There’s magic in it. The stats show that 78 per cent of people are happier and less stressed working four days a week. Considering that last year, almost four in five (77 per cent) Australians suffered burnout, it presents a solution worth experimenting with.
Working less doesn’t just create a happier workforce, according to empirical studies, implementing a four-day workweek improves employee productivity by between 25 to 50 per cent. It can also attract a broader talent pipeline — with 63% of businesses finding it easier to attract and retain talent.
Shifting to working four days is a move many countries are experimenting with. New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, last year suggested that employers consider a four-day working week and other flexible working options to boost productivity, and improve the mental health of workers. While Spain recently announced it will become the world’s first country to trial a four-day working week; their pilot project will launch in September.
We’ve signed up to take part in the 4 Day Week Global pilot program running for six months from January-June 2022. We encourage you to take a look at the benefits and see if it’s right for your workplace.