As the old saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, and our work culture, which tends to prioritize work over play, has undoubtedly left many of us feeling pretty dull. We all have heard the talk about the importance of pursuing a better work-life balance but, with nearly 78% of American men and 67% of American women working more than 40 hours per week, achieving a healthy work-life balance seems more like a distant dream than a reality.
Perhaps the key to a healthier, more productive life lies in a shorter workweek. The idea of a four-day workweek certainly isn’t a new idea; the four-day workweek has been a fantasy for many American since it was first introduced in the 1950s by American labor union leader Walter Reuther.
And while the four-day workweek might seem counterintuitive to companies looking to bolster productivity and increase revenue, it has actually proven to be a positive asset for the few brave companies who have been bold enough to try it.
Pioneers of the Four-Day Workweek
Take, for example, the Midwest web development company, Reusser Design. Since implementing a four-day workweek in 2013, Reusser Design has experienced increased productivity and employee engagement. According to Reusser’s CEO, the policy motivates employees to work harder. When you have less hours to work, you simply have to be more productive when you are working, kind of like how people hustle to finish projects before they go on vacation.
The technology education company Treehouse has also experience great results from embracing a shorter workweek. According to CEO Ryan Carson, the four-day workweek has made his employees happier and more productive than ever before. Put into effect back in 2006, the four-day workweek at Treehouse has become a staple of employee productivity and retention at the company.
Benefits of a Shorter Workweek
The benefits of a shorter workweek go beyond simply improving company morale and boosting productivity. A shorter workweek can save companies money because the extra day off saves public resources that were normally used to heat, cool and power the building. And with companies in the U.S. spending over $38 billion a year on electricity consumption, cutting down on the electricity bill would benefit both company budgets and the environment.
And then there is the issue of the dreaded daily commute. Working only four days a week not only means two less trips from home to work. Working four longer workdays rather than five shorter ones means that on the days you do have to drive to work, you won’t have to deal with the dreaded rush hour traffic on the way home since your longer workday puts you leaving the office after the worst traffic has passed.
The Shorter Workweek on a Grand Scale
While many companies have had success with a four-day workweek, we haven’t been able to witness how a four-day workweek would operate on a large scale. We might not have to wait much longer to see how a widespread four-day workweek might function, however, as it might become the new normal in France.
French Socialist presidential candidate, Benoit Hamon, has made a 32-hour workweek a cornerstone of his presidential campaign. If Hamon’s presidential run is successful, he plans to implement a 32-hour work week, with workers still receiving the current legal workweek wage.
Whether or not France ends up instituting a 32-hour workweek, attitudes at home and abroad are changing for the better as more and more people look to improve work productivity and cut down on needless wasted time spent behind a desk.
Though the shorter workweek might remain a fever dream for many of us, we are undoubtedly moving towards better work-life balances and healthier workplace practices. As more companies seek to adopt flexible work hours and work from home policies, we are moving slowly away from the chaotic, overwhelming work culture categorized by overwork and frequent burnouts towards a positive work culture that can benefit employees and employers alike.
Looking for tips to help increase productivity and foster a better work-life balance? Check out these articles:
- Culture is the Key to Work-Life Balance
- Is Technology Really the Big Bad Wolf to Work-Life Balance?
- Balance Isn’t Always 50/50: Making Constant Adjustment in Work-Life Balance?
- 7 Tips for Work-Life Balance When You Work Where You Live
- 4 Hidden Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Work-Life Balance