Is a Four Day Workweek the Answer to the Epidemic Of Stress And Burnout?
A 4 Day Workweek Can Be the Game Changer That Corporate America Needs
With record numbers of professionals and workers quitting their jobs and with Millions more experiencing stress and burnout, worried business leaders like Satya Nadella and Sundar Pitchai among others, have called on corporates to explore ways and means of halting this slide among Americans.
Moreover, Millennials (those between the ages of 25 and 40) and Gen Zers (those below 25) are the age cohorts, who make up the majority of American professionals burning out as well as resigning en masse, in what has been dubbed The Great Resignation. It is in this context that a 4 Day Workweek has been touted as the answer to the epidemic of stress and burnout plaguing the American workforce.
A 4 Day workweek can be the game changer that can reverse the trends mentioned above, provided corporates and managers follow some guidelines, which we will be discussing subsequently. Indeed, the 4 Day Workweek can work wonder for the post pandemic workforce, frazzled and disoriented as they are, by the isolation due to the lockdowns and the sheer pressure of being denied the F2F or Face to Face interactions and engagement.
A 4 Day Workweek Can Only Work, If Corporates and HR Managers Follow Some Rules
A 4 Day Workweek relieves the stress among professionals by giving them an extra day, which can then be used to recharge and rejuvenate them. However, this can work only if the employees do not take work home, or are not contacted by their managers during the extended weekend.
As anyone who worked in the corporate world knows, this is something that belongs in the realm of fantasy, as invariably, employees log in and check and reply to emails, or are asked to attend conference calls, and in almost all cases, have to field calls from managers and colleagues.
So, this is where the catch is. A 4 Day workweek works only if all the above conditions are nullified and employees have all the three days of the extended weekend to themselves. Otherwise, a 4 Day Workweek becomes yet another fancy jargon, so beloved of business leaders and HR (Human Resource) experts.
This is where governments can step in as in the case of many European countries, such as France and the United Kingdom, which have passed laws, mandating the no contact during weekends and after office hours so that employees are not duty bound to answer calls and emails.
A 4 Day Workweek Does Not Reduce Productivity and Can Increase Work Efficiency
Having said that, a 4 Day Workweek can be a game changer in other ways as well. Research has shown that the typical 5 Day Workweek just stretches the work allotted, rather than resulting in increased volumes of output. In other words, work that is done in 5 days can easily be completed in 4 days and so, there are no monetary losses to the corporates on account of lesser working days.
Moreover, Parkinsons Law states that work expands to fill the time available to do it and so, there is not much difference between a 4 Day or 5 Day workweek. Anyways, in the West, at least, not much work gets done on Fridays, and employees do leave early, as well as managers scheduling less important meetings on Fridays. So, there is only a marginal impact to productivity and volumes of output by shortening the workweek.
Moreover, a 4 Day workweek also incentivizes employees to raise the bar at personal productivity levels. Coupled with a companywide 4 day Workweek policy, this can result in substantial increases in organizational productivity as well. In addition, having an extra day off can be a psychological boost to younger employees, Millennials included.
A 4 Day Workweek Is the Answer to Millennial/Gen Z Angst Causing Stress and Burnout
On the other hand, a 4 Day Workweek cannot become the answer to putting off work and otherwise being unproductive. For instance, employees can simply say that they do not have the time to work as there are only 4 days in the workweek. Moreover, a 4 day workweek can become an excuse for non performers. These are the challenges that HR managers have to deal with.
Of course, despite these and other negatives, on balance, a 4 day workweek can be the game changer that American corporates desperately need to stem the swelling tide of resignations and to address the epidemic of stress and burnout that is sweeping corporate America.
More so, when it is the 18 to 25 year olds and the Millennials, who are at the receiving end. Older professionals, Gen Xers included have anyway adjusted to the post pandemic landscape of work. The 5 Day workweek is a relic of the Industrial era and with its sunset and the dawn of the Digital Age, we must strive for newer forms of work models and newer methods of work processes. This is the central challenge of our times and a 4 Day Workweek is a good beginning.
The pandemic has severely disrupted work and personal lives of just about everyone in the world. We need ways and means to address the fallouts from the impact it has had on corporates, and the American workforce, in particular.
A 4 day workweek can be the game changer that business leaders are looking for in the post pandemic world, and more so, when the wellbeing of future generations is at stake. To conclude, unless American CEOs act in time, the epidemic of stress and burnout among Millennial/Gen Zers can result in a lost generation of professionals in the workforce.
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Authorship/Referencing - About the Author(s)
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