Do you ever feel like your weekends are busier than your weekdays as you try to cram household chores, family commitments, and social engagements into just 48 short hours? Do you wish you had the time to actually relax, unwind, and reset before another hectic week?
Enter the four-day working week: a tantalising concept that promises to revolutionise not only the workplace but also our mental health and wellbeing.
Support for the four-day work week, which consists of reducing the standard week from 40 hours over five days to 32 hours over four days – without lowering wages – has been gaining momentum in recent years.
Businesses in countries such as the UK, Australia, and the US have trialed the initiative, with results showing a decrease in stress levels and incidences of employee burnout and an increase in overall job satisfaction.
What’s more, it seems that implementing a four-day work week has no negative impact on productivity or company output, as employees are more motivated and procrastinate less during work time.
With the four-day working week becoming an ever more plausible reality for businesses worldwide, it’s time to take a closer look at exactly how a four-day week can benefit your mental health and wellbeing.
1. A better work-life balance
When you spend five days of the week working, it can feel like you live to work – and not the other way around. A shorter working week gives you that extra chunk of free time to engage in activities that you enjoy and will improve your mental wellbeing.
An extra day off creates opportunities to do things you usually don’t have time for, like trying out a new hobby. However, one of the most appealing things about the four-day work week is the opportunity to spend more quality time with your loved ones.
Humans are social creatures who require social interaction to maintain mental wellbeing. Spending quality time with others can promote relaxation and create a sense of happiness and fulfillment. Interacting with loved ones can also assist in emotional regulation; expressing emotions and receiving emotional support from trusted individuals can reduce stress and anxiety.
While we can all benefit from increased social interaction, one of the groups whose relationships would benefit most from the four-day work week is parents of young children. Not only would the practical and financial burden of finding childcare be reduced, but they’ll also get to spend more time watching their children grow up. It can also help positively impact gender equality in the home.
2. Improved sleep
One less working day also means one less early morning, one less busy commute, and extra time to rest and recuperate so you can approach a new working week with naturally restored energy.
Adequate and quality sleep is crucial for maintaining optimal mental health and overall wellbeing.
Firstly, it plays a vital role in supporting cognitive functions, emotional stability, and psychological resilience. This is because when we sleep, our brain undergoes essential processes such as memory consolidation, information processing, and neural restoration, allowing us to retain and recall information more effectively, enhancing learning and decision-making abilities. Overall, this enables us to be more productive and engaged during waking hours.
Moreover, better sleep helps regulate our emotions and mood. That’s because a restful night’s sleep allows the body to recover from daily demands, lowering the risk of chronic stress-related conditions and the likelihood of irritability, anxiety, and depression.
It can also reduce inflammation, helping alleviate troublesome physical symptoms for those with chronic pain.
Furthermore, getting good sleep can reduce potential reliance on addictive substances. Many people, especially those in high-powered occupations, are often forced to rely on – because of the nature of their work – caffeine or other stimulants, such as amphetamines or cocaine, to get through the typical working week. It goes without saying that misuse of these substances can have devastating effects on our health and wellbeing.
3. Better physical health
With a four-day working week, you can choose to use your newfound free time to improve your physical wellbeing. Body and mind are intrinsically linked, so working on your physical health will simultaneously benefit your mental health.
One way you can use this time is to develop a more consistent exercise routine. Exercise benefits our physical and mental health by releasing the ‘happy hormone’ dopamine, which makes us feel more positive and energetic. So you could use your extra day to go to the gym during normal working hours, when it’s less busy, try out an exercise class that would usually clash with your schedule, or head into nature for a rejuvenating hike.
You can also wave goodbye to over-processed convenience food or high-calorie takeaways and use the extra time for healthy meal prepping. Proper nutrition is an essential part of maintaining our mental wellbeing. A healthy, balanced diet regulates our emotions, helps us think clearly, and makes us feel more energised. Conversely, too many sugary or processed foods can cause inflammation in our body and brain, aggravating a host of conditions, including chronic pain, stress, and anxiety.
4. Improved job satisfaction
Most businesses that trial a four-day work week report that performance and productivity levels remained the same – or even increased – despite the reduction in working hours. Many trials report that this is possible because the four-day week increases job satisfaction, which, in turn, boosts morale and improves productivity.
But how does increased job satisfaction boost your mental wellbeing?
Simply put, implementing a four-day work week makes workers feel more connected not only to the business but also to one another. Feeling connected helps foster a sense of belonging and, therefore, better mental wellbeing.
Furthermore, those with high levels of job satisfaction are less likely to experience burnout, seek joy and fulfilment from unhealthy sources such as drugs or alcohol, or experience mental health problems.
5. Reduced levels of stress and burnout
One of the biggest benefits of the four-day work week is its potential to prevent chronic stress and burnout.
Given that the concept requires completing the same amount of work in fewer days, it may be difficult to understand how a four-day week can reduce your stress. However, the research found that workers were more motivated to find ways to complete their tasks because of the reduced time frame.
Ultimately, through collaborating with colleagues to review and streamline processes and delegate tasks, it’s possible to save time and complete tasks more efficiently. And by completing work within a shorter time frame, you’re given more opportunities to rest and recharge and thus stop stress accumulating over a prolonged period.
Using this extra free time to engage in activities that promote wellbeing, like yoga, meditation, or hiking in nature, can also help to alleviate burnout symptoms.
Learn to strike the perfect work-life balance at White River Manor
For those with high-powered occupations, poor work-life balance and an overwhelming workload can put you on the road towards burnout.
A switch to a four-day working week could be the solution, but if you’re feeling mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted due to prolonged stress at work, it’s time to seek professional help.
When you feel completely devoid of energy and motivation, resting your body and mind is crucial. That’s why, in addition to expert therapeutic care, White River Manor offers luxury accommodation, a fully-equipped spa, and activities such as meditation, mindfulness, and hiking.
Located in the beautiful surroundings of the South African Lowveld, it’s the perfect place to reset and recharge.
Our Executive Burnout Program can help you to identify factors causing you to be stressed. Our team of experts will then work with you to develop healthy coping strategies and mechanisms that foster a healthier relationship with work.
We understand the unique stresses experienced by high-level individuals and can help optimise your lifestyle through a combination of talking therapies and consultations with dieticians and personal trainers. As a result, you’ll return to your daily routine with renewed energy and a fresh perspective, ready to tackle any challenges that await you.
Ready to be re-energised? Contact us today to find out more about our programs and treatment options.