Reducing the average working week to three days has immense proven benefits for both productivity and employee wellbeing, yet putting this into practice is much harder than you might expect.
How wonderful is it when you realise that it is a bank holiday weekend and the spectre known as ‘that Monday morning feeling’ doesn’t get to blight the start of yet another week? For most of us, the four days left to work are a breeze and leave us wishing that it could always be so easy; after all, three days off and four at work is a much better balance than the standard two:five ratio.
The three-day week would leave enough time to meet domestic commitments, spend time with friends and family and still have plenty leftover.
Interestingly, sociologists predicted decades ago that the rise of technology would change the face of employment, with shorter work weeks and more leisure time being the norm; however, this has not happened. Some reports suggest that digital advances have actually increased the burden, with employees being easily ‘available’ via email, mobile phones and social media.
Having a job is important for most people for financial reasons, of course, and also for the sheer fact of having something to do; however, unreasonable expectations and overworking quickly leads to stress and exhaustion, which becomes worse as you age.
Flexible working hours are beneficial to both workers and employers, whether this means shorter days or fewer days and longer hours when you are at work. The latter approach is favoured by Carlos Slim, a Mexican telecom tycoon who believes working three days a week at 11 hours a time facilitates quality personal time throughout life, not just post-retirement.
Some countries have already made moves towards a shorter working week. These include Sweden, where a six-hour day is taking hold and producing excellent results in both staff productivity and personal wellbeing.
Brits may need a little more convincing. Despite studies suggesting that one-third of the average worker’s day is wasted on activities designed to distract, such as chatting, checking social media or daydreaming, the status quo rumbles on.
Although a three-day week may be too ambitious right now, there are some pretty positive moves being made towards creating flexible work patterns, such as job sharing or working longer on some days to have one day extra at home.
For the good of the global workforce and economy, we can only hope that the shortened working week becomes a reality sooner rather than later.
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