It might seem like a simple question. And in some ways, it is. In 2021, a survey of over 1,000 Americans illustrated that we are actually pretty united on this issue:
- 90% of Americans believe that the 5-day workweek is outdated
- 97% believe they would be more productive with a 4-day workweek
- 98% believe that their mental health would improve with a 4-day workweek
- 96% believe an extra day off work each week would allow them to accomplish personal dreams/goals
But as much as we all might lust after perpetual 3-day weekends, waiting for our organizations or governments to make this change for us may keep us stuck in our current work schedule forever. For many of us, the 4-day workweek debate is just that: a debate.
So, what can we do, knowing that a 4-day workweek may benefit our mental health and improve our work-life balance, or allow us to actualize personal dreams or life goals? What actions can we take now, if a true 4-day workweek isn’t in the cards?
For those of us working remotely, or with somewhat flexible work schedules, a 4-day workweek (or close to it) may be possible with a little extra planning. Time management techniques like time blocking, day theming, and time boxing can allow you to maximize your productivity during designated work days, so that you can schedule lighter Fridays, or take some Fridays off completely.
This luxury certainly isn’t available to all of us, however. There are many organizations and industries where this kind of flexibility isn’t available. For example, K-12 educators need to be present in the school building while students are there, in addition to planning and grading outside of those hours. Working for local or state governments similarly requires a strict 5-day workweek.
No matter the level of control you have over your work schedule, work/life harmony is difficult to achieve. All of us have unique abilities and preferences, and our ideal work environments and ideal weekly schedules differ greatly. Taking the time to evaluate your current levels of stress, and how work/life imbalance and your work schedule impact your stress levels will allow you to more accurately define how, and if, adjusting your work schedule would improve your overall well-being and happiness.
The amount of time spent working during a typical week is surely not the only important factor in how we experience work/life balance. Other factors like emotional well-being, work environment itself, relationships outside of work, and your overall sense of fulfillment in your career all influence the level of work/life harmony and stress we experience. That being said, if you determine that inflexible work hours are significantly and negatively impacting your well-being, this may be a sign that your current job is not a great fit.
A 4-day workweek is not for everyone. But for a majority of us, it might be nice if the U.S. suddenly decided to follow Iceland’s lead and do away with the 5-day, 40-hour workweek. In the meantime, there are ways we can all adjust our schedules, and even our careers, to fit our needs and improve our overall well-being — it just might require some extra planning.