With the upcoming Columbus Day holiday, some of us are heading into a three-day weekend — at least for those of us who cleave (if only in theory) to a five-day work week. Granted, that leaves out a lot of folks, but for those who work inside the structure of five-days-on, two-days-off, those three days usually end up feeling like a gift from the work gods.
You get all your errands and housework done, squeeze in time with friends and family, and then — wow! — a whole extra 24 hours beyond that.
Sound good? Apparently working fewer hours is good, according to recent research in fields ranging from psychology to cognition to sleep, and medical conditions such as depression and anxiety.
A recent systematic review of studies on work and heart disease conducted by The Lancet concluded that “Employees who work long hours have a higher risk of stroke than those working standard hours.” Additional evidence also suggested somewhat higher risk for heart disease. And not surprisingly, the stats are even worse for those in manual labor.
You’re more productive.
Studies are increasingly showing that shorter workweeks — or recently in Sweden, shorter work days — result in higher productivity, as workers are allowed to harness their energy more efficiently. As the Harvard Business Review reports, “Considerable evidence shows that overwork is not just neutral — it hurts us and the companies we work for. Numerous … have found that overwork and the resulting stress can lead to all sorts of health problems, including impaired sleep, depression, heavy drinking, diabetes, impaired memory, and heart disease. Of course, those are bad on their own. But they’re also terrible for a company’s bottom line, showing up as absenteeism, turnover, and rising health insurance costs.”
When you can avoid the burnout at the end of the day — along with the poor decision making and general grumpiness that come with it — you tend to better manage your relationships with colleagues when at work, and probably the relationships outside work, as well.
That all sounds pretty convincing, but I also wanted to hear from someone who’d actually been test-driving this concept for awhile. I found her, in a millennial who works as an engraver at the U.S. Mint here in Philadelphia.
Renata Gordon says she’s had a four-day work week for about a year and a half. She compresses her work as an artist designing coins (how cool is that) into 10 hours a day, Monday through Thursday.
How does it work out? “I go to bed early Sunday through Wednesday,” she says. “It creates a four-day period of intensive work and self – improvement. For example, I wake up very early to work out before work, I get adequate sleep during that time, and I cook most of what I eat.
“While a 10-hour workday at first seems tiring, it is something one gets used to, making it seem like a normal four days,” Gordon says. “The following three-day weekend every week seems like a bonus! Toward the end of the day, I sometimes wane in my level of creative energy. However, after a three-day weekend, I am totally renewed each week, and feel that makes up for it. I appreciate the structure a four-day work week builds, and the freedom the weekend brings complements it.”
Seems like the four-day week is good food for thought and may help us integrate the Four Circles of work, home life, community life, and private time that Stewart Friedman, Practice Professor of Management and Director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project identifies as crucial to healthy work/life balance.
So this weekend, if you have Monday off, enjoy — and observe.