4 day workweek can help with mental health

Could the cure for working too much be to work a little less?

It may seem obvious to your employees, but employers are a tougher sell when it comes to implementing a four-day workweek. but beyond boosts to productivitythere are psychological benefits to a condensed work schedule that could help your employees manage their work-life balance and mental well-being.

“When we have a four-day week, we can develop more of a routine and habits and different ways of going through our life which will become more structured,” says Dr. Kamila Sip, senior director of neuroscience research at NeuroLeadership consultancy. “It’s much easier to think long-term because we have more predictability about what the weeks are going to look like.”

Readmore: 3 ways to promote PTO and fight employee burnout

COVID has undone much of the structure humans thrive on, Sip says. The uncertainties of life over the past eighteen months have our brains in overdrive.

“We have a need to understand what’s actually happening to us, what’s expected, what’s predicted, and that has been completely shattered [during COVID],” she says. “The brain keeps running on a loop trying to figure out the data points to make the predictions for us and eliminate some of the uncertainty we’re feeling. That process is really taxing cognitively and physically and uses a lot of resources.”

The four-day workweek works, Sip says, by giving employees more boundaries for when to get their work done, and gives them freedom to compartmentalize other tasks that could be getting in the way of their productivity and reduce those outside stressors.

“If we are spending so many hours at a workplace, whether it’s Zoom or physically being in the office, that also means that we no longer have the time to call our plumber, to make a doctor’s appointment, to hang out with friends,” Yep says. “The four-day workweek allows us to manage the other part of our life, which makes us feel better because we have control and can exercise our needs and have them met.”

Readmore: Thank God it’s Thursday. Making the case for a 4-day workweek

While 40% of employees are in favor of the four-day workweek, just 15% of employers currently offer this schedule, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. But now is the time to experiment with new ways of working and take advantage of the proven benefits.

“Companies have experimented with this and found greater productivity, greater engagement and greater gender equality in the workplace,” Sip says. “The workforce right now is very flexible and dynamic, and it’s much easier for us to process that change because everything else has already been shaken.”

As employers search for ways to support their workforce and help them feel in control of their lives in and out of the office, rebalancing work and time-off is becoming a bigger conversation. Employers like LinkedIn and Nike are offering employees mental health weeks to combat burnout and give employees time to reset.

But while this extra PTO is helpful in the short-term, long-term consistency can help employees weather challenges, establish healthy routines and calm their whirring minds, Sip says.

“If every three months, we give someone a week off, it will help but it won’t have the same effect, because people will use that time to go on vacation or just relax,” Sip says. “If we gain more hours during every week, we can actually plan and structure in a way that’s balancing work-life balance much better.”

Readmore: 3 reasons benefits managers should consider a 4-day workweek

A shorter workweek is not a cure for burnout and other emotional issues employees are facing, Sip stresses. Rather, it’s another tool employers can have in their toolbox to ensure employees can bring their best selves to work.

“I want to make sure that we don’t think that if we give people a four-day workweek that that’s going to solve job burnout, because job burnout is impacted by many other components than just how many hours we work,” Sip says . “A four-day workweek just makes it more optimal for what we need to be efficient and effective at our workplace.”


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