Finding balance in our lives is a challenge few feel they have mastered. Juggling family, friends, work, caring responsibilities and hobbies needs more than a swanky app. What it really takes is courage. Courage to say no and courage to say “we can do this differently”.
Remote work, despite its many benefits, has further perpetuated the “always on” culture when your workplace is your home. Flexible work is a catchphrase rather than a reality if we’re not in control of our own boundaries.
The Harvard Business Review found that employees can spend up to 80% of their workdays communicating with colleagues in emails, meetings, and instant messaging apps on and off the clock.
But, what if?
Shorter working weeks have proven to increase balance in our lives and job satisfaction.
The biggest skeptics when it comes to the #4DayWeek are some of the most ambitious people I know. They remain unconvinced that by reducing the working week, this won’t negatively impact their output and in turn their success.
Research by Dr Juliet B. Schor on global four-day week pilots showed overwhelmingly positive results on work-life balance and productivity. “At the beginning of the trial, we asked them to rate their current work ability compared to their lifetime best as a measure of self-rated productivity, and that went up significantly. People felt at the end of the trial that they were more productive, they just were performing significantly better.
And then we asked, ‘Do you want to continue the trial?’ Some 97% said yes. We then asked how much they valued a four-day week by asking them how much more money they would require to work a five-day week at their next job. Some 42% said they’d require between 26% and 50% more pay,13% said they’d require more than 50% more pay, and 13% said no amount of money could make them go back to how things were before.”
Interestingly, it is also often ambitious, high achieving leaders who have the foresight to see that employees living balanced lives are more likely to stay with the company, be engaged with their work and in turn to achieve a high level of productivity.
The difference between these two groups is courage. Courage to lead and not be afraid of failure, and also recognition that we can do anything, but we cannot do everything.
Do less to get more
A shorter working week creates the time and space needed to prioritize things other than work and not feel guilty. Guilt is a feeling that has become more and more prevalent in our lives, particularly for working parents. The struggle to work hard and achieve your career goals while also dedicating yourself to your family can be extremely difficult.
After switching to a four-day workweek to address retention challenges in August 2021, 95% of the 250 employees at Boise-based non-profit Healthwise felt the policy positively impacted their work-life balance.
Some of the stories that we hear at the Work Time Reduction Center of Excellence about what reduced work time means for people are just incredibly powerful, whether that’s being able to do the school pickups, spending more time with elderly relatives, learning a new skill, or having time for a hobby. This is something that makes a truly transformative difference in people’s lives.