Canada and the US have jumped on the ship many have longed for since remote work became mainstream–the 4 day work week. The newly introduced pilot program expects employees to cut their work time by 20%, while maintaining 100% productivity and salary.
The movement toward a 4-day work week is not new, but the need for it has certainly intensified in the last couple of years. Over one third of Canadians report feeling burnt out. That’s a lot of us – but the number comes to no surprise. The past couple of years have been gruelling for everyone. We were plucked out of daily routines filled with active social interaction and thrown into remote work basically overnight. We had to learn to retrain our brains to adapt to life online. We also had to learn to set boundaries between our work life and our regular life, a task that was challenging for all, and nearly impossible for parents and entrepreneurs.
Though challenging throughout, the pandemic also brought about a need for alignment between our value set and our work. People began picking up passion projects. First to pass the time–but many turned into full fledged businesses. In fact, during the first year of the pandemic, 2 million Canadians launched a new business. This first wave of entrepreneurs came largely as a result of increased time flexibility and a government mandated decrease in social interaction. Working from home meant no commute and less time spent getting ready in the morning. This coupled with our inability to go out left people to dive into their creative projects, eventually monetizing them. Today a new shift is afoot. The 4-day work week is bound to give us more autonomy over our time and as a result, it will inspire a second wave of entrepreneurs.
Inspiration Fosters Creativity
The first step in curing burnout is becoming aware it’s happening. Check. The second step is taking time to centre yourself and figure out the areas in your life that are causing burnout. This one is a bit trickier to check, but for many, the answer is work-related. The pandemic inspired a lot of people to take a hard look at their job, and in many cases, quit to pursue a job that better aligned with their own values. So, let’s check that for now. Third come the immediate changes you can make to make things better, things like time management and prioritisation strategies. Here’s where the 4 day work week will do wonders, and some companies are already seeing positive results. Social media company, Buffer, has worked under the 4 day work week framework for nearly two years now and reports 91% of its employees feeling happier and more productive.
Of course the change will not happen overnight, but inspiration is sure to follow once people begin reclaiming autonomy over their time and enjoying the sense of freedom that comes from having nearly half a week off work. We continue seeing a movement of people making huge life changes and starting passion projects and entrepreneurial side hustles. Having more time to devote to these will foster business growth as well as creative and strategic thinking, ultimately giving way to an entrepreneurial mindset and a new wave of entrepreneurs.
An Evolving Philosophy
The key to staying nimble through big life changes is getting comfortable with holding an evolving philosophy. Avoid sharing plans and ideas as if they are fixed in time. Instead, allow yourself to experiment based on the information that is available to you now. Then, adjust accordingly once you learn new information. This may sound like common sense as you read it, but it is one of the biggest pain points entrepreneurs face as they implement their plans with employees and contractors. It’s really important to set the principle of ‘evolving philosophies’ with your team from the get go. As we learn new information, we make better decisions. As we learn more, we ask better questions, and what we ‘know’ changes – so the plan must change with it.
This means that as a business thinking of implementing a 4-day workweek you need to first come to terms with the idea that the first few months will require a bit of trial and error. Lead by example as you encourage the switch, but remain compassionate, graceful and flexible throughout the transition. People might struggle to switch to 4-days right away. As you become more comfortable with the concept, you may realise there are other policies that need to come in to better compliment this process and lifestyle change. One example are vacation black out dates, chunks of time where the team agrees not to book time-off in. This can be an important step in integrating your 4-day work week schedule with the mainstream 5-day work week schedule of those companies and competitors around you.
As an employee, be kind to yourself too. Make sure you have an open channel of communication with your team and leadership. Share any strategies that are working well for you.
Much like remote work, once the 4-day work week comes into effect across the board it will be here to stay. We’ll see more and more people wearing both the entrepreneur and employee hats at once, and we’ll need to make sure meaningful communication is taking place. It’s the only way for all of us to move toward the new era with unity, one where work and burnout are no longer synonyms for achieving success.