In an age when many people put in punishingly long hours on the job in person and online, could your employer accept one fewer day of work?
This week, a notable doctor in the U.K. has put forward a recommendation that companies consider instituting a four-day work week to help reduce stress in the workplace, as well as unemployment. Not exactly revolutionary stuff, but perhaps an idea worth considering … under the right circumstances.
I have had two occasions in my career where I took a shorter work week for a “test-drive.” The first was almost a decade ago, when our family first bought a cottage. I decided to forego the normal two-week vacation and make every week a four-day work week during the summer. My family had the flexibility to try this out with me, and I was keen to make the most of our new investment.
The result? It was a disaster. As many of us know, a
three-day weekend can be wonderful, but the four days afterwards are often a mad scramble to make up for the lost time. I ended up working extra hours every day, which made me exhausted come the weekends. On top of that, I was working at an ad agency where four-day work weeks were highly unusual, and I increasingly sensed frustration that I was the one person consistently holding up key meetings. Also, and probably most important, I really missed that two-week vacation where I could totally disconnect from work and fully recharge.
Needless to say, the following summer, I was back to a normal vacation schedule. Ultimately, it was a bad fit with the job and the environment, and too big a trade-off of something I really valued.
The second time I tried out a four-day work week never went past the hypothetical stage, but it still laid the ground work for a future possibility. I was offered a position at a non-profit organization that paid significantly lower than I had targeted for my next role, but would have opened up a new and exciting direction for my career. Rather than try to negotiate a higher salary, which seemed unrealistic for this organization, I decided to try to turn it into a four-day work week role instead. There were a lot of demands on my personal life at that time, and I reasoned that a shorter work week would help me balance those and reconcile the lower salary.
As fate would have it, an offer for an even more interesting opportunity came along (with a better compensation package, and a non-negotiable, five-day work week), so I never had the chance to truly take a four-day work week out for a spin.
Yet, someday, especially as I get closer to retirement (for the record, this is still a long way off at the moment), I definitely see a shorter work week as a natural career progression. I can see why some folks delay full retirement well into their 70s if they can make a case to their employers (as I almost did) that a three- or four-day work week is a mutually beneficial model.
Easing into a shorter work week is just one model for the changing picture of retirement in Canada. Read more in the latest report from the Sun Life Canadian Unretirement Index.
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