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Is a 4-day workweek better for work-life balance?

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Without a doubt, many of us have certainly thought that, "Life would be so much better if we had a three-day weekend, every weekend" as we contemplate the approaching Monday morning. There are many indications that something that seemed like a pipe dream,  until recently,  now has a chance of becoming a reality. 

In June 2022, 70 UK companies started taking part in an international study to see what the world would be like if people worked four days per week instead of the typical five. [1]

In Britain, the program involves more than 3,300 employees from various industries. The goal is to reduce the work week by one day without reducing wages - and to measure exactly how this affects efficiency, productivity and employee health. 

According to the organizers of the study, the aptly named 4 Day Week Global, "the idea is to maintain 100 percent productivity 80 percent of the time." It doesn't matter whether you work in a physical office, a hotel or a restaurant - the idea is meant to apply to any sector of the economy. [2]

This social experiment, which is also designed to examine whether the idea of working five days in a row makes any sense at all, comes at a rather crucial time. We are inundated on all sides with studies indicating that up to 80 percent of the population in the UK is professionally burned out. What's more, as many as 35 percent of them believe that "job burnout prevents them from functioning normally."

This, in turn, prompts researchers to ask a very important question, “Won't a 4-day workweek make us all even more overburdened with tasks, resulting in even more burnout?” 

This is potentially what it could look like. Especially among companies which will shorten the work week "as part of the spirit of modernity" - without being prepared to do so, or even knowing how to go about it. However, if a company "does its homework" and approaches the subject in the right way, it can expect many benefits.

Bex Spiller, the founder of the Anti-Burnout Club and an expert on stress and burnout notes that, "During tests in different countries, we've seen that a four-day work week can bring incredible benefits."  [3]

"Employees feel happier and healthier, have more time to focus on hobbies, take care of their health, interact with others and do creative activities. This leads to increased productivity in many cases. However, it's worth noting that where productivity doesn't increase, it won't decrease either - it will be the same at worst,” she adds. 

She also suggests that "the benefits of introducing a 4-day workweek may also include a reduction in stress levels and the risk of burnout." "Ultimately, this reduces costs for any company," she explains.

Does the four-day workweek have the potential to ease the burnout crisis? 

Since we all went through (and are still going through) the pandemic, many of us are facing pressure in the workplace. Some have lost their sense of security, while others are struggling with a record low level of job satisfaction and motivation.

The situation has been partially "helped" by a new approach to work which can be seen in almost every developed region of the world. Employers are opting for a hybrid form of employment and offering greater flexibility when it comes to working hours.

It's important to remember that the first step to eliminating burnout is to restore balance and draw a clear line between work and private life.

"Today we all have too much on our plate and struggle to balance our responsibilities at work and those in our private lives. Shortening the work week will give people a chance to take a breather so they can do more for themselves," - assesses the aforementioned founder of the Anti-Burnout Club.

The founder of another organization, The People Person, Lara Cullen, believes that "one extra day off will bring incalculable benefits, no matter how it is used."[4]

"It can allow us to solve problems in our lives, including those that distract us from work. It can also simply give us a boost of extra energy, improve our physical, mental and emotional well-being. Parents of children, in turn, will have more time to give from themselves to their kids," she explains.

How to effectively manage professional burnout?

Each of us can prevent or reduce burnout by paying attention to when we are close to being overwhelmed.

Moyra Scott, a productivity expert, suggests not ignoring the basics of healthy living, as very often occupational burnout is a symptom of its absence. [5]

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are steps you can take to effectively manage workplace burnout. [6]

After you evaluate your options and discuss your concerns with your supervisor, it’s also important to focus on your health and overall well-being. 

What is your opinion on the 4-day workweek and professional burnout? Perhaps you are currently facing a similar problem? 

Let us know in the comments!

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