If this is what a 4-day workweek means to your organization, then yeah, it’s probably not going to help with burnout:
“Forcing employees to complete the same amount of work that was accomplished with five days and shoehorn that into four days is not the right way to do this massive change.”
The thing we haven’t really considered is that it’s the stress, and it’s the amount of work.
As the article points out later, we actually need to recognize how many actually productive hours people have in them each day and figure out how to make that work. To quote:
“Most of the companies that are deploying this new strategy are still asking their employees to work the same amount of hours but in less days, which is to me the perfect recipe for burnout,” says Gunn.
Some companies get it, says Gunn, such as Shopify, whose CEO Tobias Lutke said in December 2019 that most employees are only productive five hours per day and executives need to recognize this fact.
You see, the problem we have when it comes to burnout is this. There are only so many hours we can be productive before the quality of our work starts to wane. Our ability to focus starts to wane, and we are just sort of going through the motions. When you are just working that way, going through the motions, long enough you will burn out. You can spread that over 5 days, cram it into 4 days, or heck spread it over all 7 days of the week, and it won’t change. The longer you spend doing work, the more likely you’re not really engaged in it because you simply don’t have the capacity.
Pre-2020 we spent 8+ hours in the office, plus maybe an hour or more commuting, turning our workday into about 10-11 hours of our day, on average. But, as I mentioned, part of that was just commuting, and part of that in-office time was spent interacting socially with coworkers, going to get lunch, etc. Now? We wake up and start working. (If you’re lucky and plan you might even get a chance to shower before work.) You eat at your desk. You work right up until 5-6PM and you simply shut down. Again, you’re lucky if someone doesn’t still email or “ping” you after that. So, for many of us, our workday might still be 10-11 hours, or it might even be a bit shorter, but it’s ALL work, and as we just saw, the reality is that around the 6-hour mark our productivity started to dip. The key then, to not burning out, is to make that day flexible. Instead of demanding you put in “x” hours each day/week/month, we should simply lay out what work needs to be completed, what the deadlines are, and give workers the freedom to find the best way to accomplish that. Maybe, for some, they will want to really focus for 4 days per week and have the extra day to live their lives. For others, it might look like working some in the morning, some in the afternoon, and then again in the evening. Not everyone is going to fit into the same bucket when it comes to finding the balance that allows them to do their best work, and also have a life. Don’t force them to fit into the bucket you like. That’s how you burn them out.