Working from Home Is Leading to Record Levels of Burnout. Is a 4-Day Work Week the Fix?

Workers are stressed from the "always-on" expectation that can come with working from home, yet they hesitate to take time off to decompress because they fear it could lead to layoff.
Working from Home Is Leading to Record Levels of Burnout. Is a 4-Day Work Week the Fix?
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As the pandemic drags on, it’s no surprise that American workers are becoming burned out while working from home—69% in fact, according to a survey from Monster.

Since May, the rate has shot up nearly 20% possibly because the majority of workers, about 59%, are taking less time off than they did last year, and 42% who are still working from home don’t plan to take time off to recuperate.

This issue of burnout raises the question to employers, why not transition to a 4-day work week?

According to a global survey of nearly 3,000 employees across eight nations conducted by The Workforce Institute, 78% of full-time workers say it would take less than seven hours each day to do their job if they could work uninterrupted, with 45% admitting that their job should take less than five hours per day.

Related: 5 Solutions to Your Biggest Work-From-Home Challenges

In 2019, Microsoft Japan implemented a 4-day work week and saw a 40% boost in productivity. So, if three-quarters of workers crave a longer weekend, why haven’t US companies embraced the trend? Because rearchitecting the workday requires effort.

Here some things entrepreneurs should embrace if they want to make the jump.

1. Test the switch before committing

Studies show it's entirely possible to have equal or greater productivity from adopting a four-day workweek, but the transition process can be bumpy. The key is to plan for the transition phase and manage expectations with team members.

Give yourself a one-month pilot period where you can ensure company goals are able to be met and ascertain if work is being fairly delegated.

The month will allow employees time to plan for the reduction in office hours, and it may become clear if everyone should have the same work pattern and hours, or if adjustments need to be made depending on seasonality or deadlines.

2. Be ruthless about protecting your time

Trimming the hours in your workweek will not be effortless and protecting your biggest asset—your time—will become a major focus.

Related: 8 Tips to Work From Home Without Being Distracted

You’ll have to evaluate every minute spent in meetings and deny any request that isn’t critical to moving the business forward. Follow the 80/20 rule and constantly examine which projects are giving your business the biggest return on the time invested. Once you determine which clients or projects are generating the most income with the least amount of time needed for completion you can streamline your offerings to only those types of projects.

You’ll also have to retrain workaholic employees to detach from wearing their long days and busy-ness as a badge of honor. Dole out accolades to those are being the most productive in the least amount of time, and soon the everyone will be proudly sharing how they achieved awesome results by being focused, rather than working into the night.

3. Automate and outsource

Once you feel you have eliminated all ineffective tasks and all inefficiencies in your workflow, it's time to examine where your team can further delegate or automate. Automation is defined as "the systematization of a task so that it can be performed either by computer or sub-contractor."

Any and all tasks that don't need your specific expertise can be automated.

Typical tasks that are perfect for automation because they don't need your hands-on expertise are:

  • General administration
  • Graphic and Web design
  • Bookkeeping
  • Client support for menial tasks
  • Social media management

4. Reward productivity

It’s incredible how productive someone can be when they are focused on hitting a goal and being incentivized — the reward is more free time. By rewarding productivity, you focus your team on the results produced rather than the amount of time spent on a project. Start by setting weekly goals and slowly build on them. If the results are achieved, reward them with additional free time or financial incentives.

5. Focus on the tremendous upside potential

Downtime allows employee’s creative subconscious to solve problems that your conscious mind may have not been able to do. Having 3 days off may encourage employees to indulge in more self-care: work out, meditate, carve out time for their families and hobbies.

Related: 10 Tips From CEOs on Working From Home Effectively and Happily

According to Workforce Institute, 34% of global workers say their ideal workweek would last four days, while 20% said they would prefer to work three days a week — assuming their pay remained unaltered.

Successfully moving to a 4-day work week may involve some short-term pain, but it can lead to long-term gains for your business.

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