Just in time for summer comes more evidence that the four-day workweek is good for your work and personal life.
The boss of a Vancouver-based company describes in The Wall Street Journal how he was close to total burnout five years ago. Then he made a decision that changed everything: He would take Friday as a "free day" and not work.
Brian Scudamore, who is chief executive and founder of home services company O2E Brands, also decided to designate Mondays as "think days," when he works from home and takes no meetings.
But taking off on Friday was the most important thing he did, Scudamore writes in the article. "[Fridays are] days where I do what I love -- skiing with my children, cooking, learning languages and biking," the 40-year-old says. "When I’m away from the office, things have time to marinate. Connections bubble up and often turn into big, business-changing ideas."
Scudamore's company encourages employees to set their own schedule, too, O2E brand publicist Sarah Gray told The Huffington Post. "We can pick our own schedule -- come in when we want and leave when we want. It's not a culture of 'clock watchers,' " Gray said in an email. "We're more about setting/achieving our goals than we are about hammering home a 9-5 workweek."
There's loads of research out there that demonstrates that working longer hours is bad for your health. Working more means that there's less time to exercise, de-stress and sleep, among other things. And that causes real, physical damage. Those who work more than 55 hours per week have an increased risk of stroke compared to those who work less than 40 hours, according to a major analysis of studies that NYMag.com's Science of Us blog cites.
"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," said Sarah Green Carmichael in Harvard Business Review last year.
Long hours are particularly hard on the health of lower-income workers, research shows. They already have more stress just coping with the anxiety of making ends meet and are even more vulnerable to the health risks that overwork brings on.
Overworked, unhealthy employees also cost companies more to insure, are absent more often and their work isn't that hot either.
Though your boss may think that working longer hours is a sign you're working super-hard and productively, the truth is managers don't often haven't a clue about who is really productive. You can't judge someone's performance by how frequently they're spotted at their desk.
The higher-ups at one consulting firm had no idea that some of their best workers were only pretending to put in 80-hour workweeks, according to a widely cited study from Erin Reid, a professor at Boston University's business school.
Scudamore says that taking Fridays off has helped him think more creatively. Anyone who's ever had an amazing idea while in the shower or just taking a walk can surely relate to this.
And it's not just knowledge workers who see benefits from working less. A century ago, Henry Ford cut worker shifts in his automobile plant to eight hours from nine (and doubled their pay) -- and business boomed.
Some companies are already on board with the notion of a shorter week. Basecamp, a Chicago-based software company, does four-day work weeks in the summer. A design firm in Indiana is only open Monday through Thursday because its founder believes his workers are more motivated, according to a piece in CNN Money. The article says that about 14 percent of small companies offer employees a chance to work a compressed four-day week.
If you're at a company who hasn't yet seen the light, feel free to send a link to this piece to your boss. Good luck. (Yes, I wrote this on a Friday, but I do plan to leave early. Baby steps.)