As reports keep surfacing about more and more employees suffering from burnout, responses from business leaders, if any, are all over the map.
Meanwhile, a four-year trial of the four-day work week in Iceland led to 86 percent of that country’s working population to qualify for a shorter work week, from 40 hours to 35 hours per week, and for the same rate of pay. The results have included workers reporting that they felt less stress; spending more time with their families; and either enjoying more time pursing their personal interests or finishing those pesky tasks such as household chores.
Some may question whether a relatively isolated country home to only 360,000 people can offer lessons to larger countries, massive multinational corporations or even startups.
Nevertheless, it appears more business leaders realize they have a burnout problem on their hands and preaching the virtues of “self-care” or “well-being” are not going to cut it. For example, the CEO of the software company Okta reportedly emailed all 3,500 of the company’s employees, urging them to take time off and even asked them to share their vacation plans with him. The company allows for unlimited vacation time, a policy advocates say could help motivate employees to both work hard and stay loyal to their companies.
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Furthermore, it is no secret that the work culture in the U.S. is one that leads to many employees feeling “guilty” if they dare take some time away from the office. To that end, more companies are taking a different twist on Okta’s approach, as in offering cash to encourage their employees to get away.
But as anyone who has tried to rent a car or had to fly on a plane this summer can verify, those promises to take time off can hit a brick wall. Until the airlines can iron out all those logistical problems that are making summer plans more nightmare than nirvana (never mind the anti-masker incidents), hitting the road or airspace isn’t necessarily the most palatable option for many workers. The rental car shortage, volatile labor market and summer heat across the U.S. are among the factors leading many citizens to kick the vacation can down the road for a while.
Enter the four-day work week.
One company testing out the four-day work week is Kickstarter, the popular crowdsourcing platform. The New York-based company says it will test out the schedule next year. Employees will receive the same salary, only work fewer hours. According to a recent report, as the logic goes, being in the virtual or physical office will lend to fewer interruptions at work while employees can stay more focused while they are on the clock.
According to the nonprofit 4 Day Week Global, businesses that shift to a four-day work week could score many benefits: happier and less stressed employees; an advantage in finding and retaining talent; and an acknowledgment of 85 percent of working adults who have said, in at least one survey, they favor a four-day work week.
Let’s face it: technology such as instant messaging, email, human resources software and even decades-old developments such as word processing and spreadsheets does not necessarily mean our jobs are easier. The reality today is that people are expected to do even more. And one disruptive global pandemic later, workers have made it clear that they can be trusted, and that they are both efficient, creative and can adapt to just about any situation. It’s about time business leaders respond in kind.
Image credit: Elisa Ventur/Unsplash
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.