Even young people are finding it hard to keep up long working hours
What is your current status?
It’s been said that if you are consistently working more than 50 hours a week then your health is at risk
The four-day workweek won’t be right for every business, but it’s not an impossible thing to implement and could be your answer
If many people are already working a four-day work week, why not you? Health and productivity the two big issues that can be better addressed.
Already on Friday afternoon, it is difficult to make contact with people. All too often, the work week turns into a countdown to Friday lunchtime. Time seems to slow down from Wednesday to Friday and then hit light speed over the weekend. Then Monday rolls around, and we head back to work feeling like we never left.
Why is it that two days off never seem like enough to recharge? Part of the problem is that the typical work week has slowly stretched beyond 40 hours. A Gallup survey found that most full-time employees now work an average of 47 hours a week. Thirty-nine percent work more than 50 hours a week.
“There is no sure path to success, but the surest path to failure is trying to please everyone”. Tim Ferriss
Those hours add up and slowly begin to wear you down along with your productivity. Arguably it’s time for us to make some changes. And one of the best ways to do that is by implementing a four-day workweek.
Health and productivity are impacted
It is not uncommon for employees to feel overworked in the hectic pace of life today, in fact, many often become burnt out. There is not sufficient time to available to recuperate and the employee’s health and well-being suffer.
We all know that slogging away for hours on end at work isn’t the most exciting way to spend your life. Now staying back late has actually been proven to seriously damage your health and wellbeing.
Scientists are discovering and many people are feeling it, that working more than 40 hours per week is not only counterproductive but potentially hazardous to health and well-being. Here are some other things they are finding:
- Working more than 10 hours a day is associated with a 60% jump in the risk of cardiovascular issues.
- 10% of those working 50–60 hours a week report relationship problems; the rate increases to 30% for those working more than 60 hours.
- Working more than 40 hours a week is associated with increased alcohol and tobacco consumption, as well as unhealthy weight gain in men and depression in women.
- Little productive work occurs after 50 hours per week. In white collar jobs, productivity declines by as much as 25% when workers put in 60 hours of more.
- Injury rates increase as work hours increase. Those who work 60 hours per week have a 23% higher injury hazard rate.
- Many of the problems identified link to stress, which connects to hormonal balances. Stress raises cortisol, which can disrupt sleep, appetite, blood pressure, immune system function, memory/cognition, mood, and more.
Well, if that isn’t a reality check, how about this? France has recently pushed to officially ban emails sent out of hours and some companies are even willing to pay you to sleep more.
In many cases, more working hours does not mean better work. Most people know that heavy workloads will at some point cause you to take twice as long to complete even simplest of tasks. So while employees are working longer, they are not producing high-quality work.
And what makes matters worse is, even when employees do go home after long days, they still can’t relieve the work stress and sleep because they’re thinking about work. That, in turn, negatively impacts their work the following day. And the cycle continues.
Thursday could be the new Friday
There seems to be no doubt that switching to four-day work week will give you a competitive advantage in recruiting the best talent.
It might not be a Friday, it will depend on the preferences of the business and the employee which becomes the extra day off. Some might prefer to have a mid week break.
Advantages in attracting good employees
Businesses are going to great lengths to offer good employees more and more benefits in an effort to retain them and to attract better employees. In a 2016 Society for Human Resources survey, it was found that 33% of organisations had increased the number of benefits they had provided over the last year.
Attracting good employees is a critical issue for smaller organisations. You need to be offering employees what they actually want. Free beer in the fridge or a night out are nice but don’t appeal to as many people as does an extra day off. A job that provides better work-life balance is something that is starting to really attract the best employees.
The best employees see work-life balance as one of the most valuable things they look for in a job. Furthermore, a 2015 FlexJobs survey found that 30% percent of employees would take a 10-20% pay cut if it meant having a more flexible work schedule.
Before you scoff and say “There’s no way a company can make more if its employees are doing less”. Remember that there’s not less work being produced, but better. And if that doesn’t convince you, check with other businesses who have adopted a more flexible working environment.
The shortened week can also help you save on other expenses. Research from Harvard University found that workplace stress costs the USA anywhere between $125 billion to $190 billion dollars a year. Specifically, for employers, that means higher employee healthcare cost, lost clients due to poor customer service, and expensive employee turnover.
Four-day work week options
The four-day workweek is great in theory, but you need to find a way to implement it. Not every option is going to be feasible at every organisation or for every employee role. For example, it’s not a good idea to give every employee in the customer service department Friday off, leaving no one to tend to customers on that day.
Some businesses choose to use four staggered, 10-hour day schedules for their employees. Employees alternate between having Monday or Friday off, so there’s always someone in the office working. While this model works well for some, note that it does take a bit of planning and scheduling.
Other businesses, choose to change the working hours. With longer work days, employees are able to concentrate on projects longer which can improve the quality of what they produce. Some projects have problems with too many stops and starts.
Another option is having employees have bi-weekly days off. They work a full week and then a shortened one the following. This is a good way to reward hard work and allow employees to recharge every second week.
Only offering four-day work weeks part of the year is another possibility. You could shorten the work weeks during off periods. Working hours could also be better synchronise with daylight saving.
Making a four-day workweek function is not easy. But when you look at the benefits that come along with it there’s every reason to give it a try.
By moving to a four-day workweek, everybody has the chance to rest and come back into work more enthusiastic and ready to go. You might be surprised how much better employees perform in less time on the job and how the morale improves.
Mobility is making it possible
With all the congestion on our roads and with all forms of public transport, employees are losing up to 15 hours a week or more. This means the employee is working 50 plus hours a week and their productivity is slipping along with their morale and their health.
By providing the technology to trusted employees they can work from home, in fact, from anywhere they might be. They reduce their commute time and a four-day work week becomes a reality. The employee is happy, his family is happy and when people are happy their productivity per hour goes up.
The four-day workweek won’t be right for every business. But it’s not impossible to implement positive changes to the way you and your employees work. By allowing employees to feel more in control of their lives, you’ll be improving work-life balance, increasing productivity, and attracting great employees.
Those in favour of a four-day work week consider themselves to be progressive in their thinking, but one organisation that’s made a much more radical change is an American company called Best Buy. Thousands of their corporate employees are on 100% flextime.
They work as little or as much as they want and from wherever they like. They have full autonomy to decide their start and finish times. The result is a results-only work environment where productivity has increased by 35% and staff attrition has plummeted.
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You will be mistaken if you think that technology will automatically improve your working conditions. It does not, it only improves if you and your team work very hard to make it better and create the changes you want in how you work.
Don’t follow a model that doesn’t work well for you all day every day. If the recipe is inferior, it doesn’t matter how good a cook you are, your lifestyle will not improve.
Three of the most common reasons offered by advocates of the four-day work week are benefits to the environment, better roads and safer driving, and better employees’ health.