Well-being beyond the 4-day Work Week

The 4-day work week is hailed as a remedy to our manic productivity. It’s helped employees explore an elusive work-life balance and reduced the stress of demanding jobs. But as progressive as the shorter model seems, alone, it doesn’t engage the issues at the heart of employee well-being. For that, we need to look beyond attractive quick fixes and ask what experiences matter most to our employees, and how we can create those in abundance.

The reality of burnout

Although we’ve come a long way from the 14 to 16-hour workdays pushed in the industrial era, many employees still find themselves grinding mercilessly through long hours to achieve their performance targets. Competition is high, remote work keeps us engaged, and challenging conditions push employees to the edge of their capacity.

Since the start of the pandemic, burnout rates have increased globally. Reports show a steady rise from 38% in May 2021 to 42% at the start of 2023 across a range of industries. McKinsey also highlighted the growing disconnect between employee well-being and organisational efforts to provide positive and supportive work experiences.

Looking at the strain people are under, it’s clear why the idea of the 4-day work week is such a hot topic and a proposed solution to our unhealthy work situations. It’s the perfect antidote in many settings. It gives employees more valuable hours with their loved ones, reduces the impact of stress hormones on our health, and makes us more productive when we are at it.

The problem is that the 4-day model on its own doesn’t target the root causes of burnout. Unsustainable workloads, a perceived lack of control, not being acknowledged, poor work relationships, unfair treatment, and a mismatch of values are all big contributors but are not addressed by the shorter week.

The power of a positive work culture

To tackle burnout, and create a space where employees truly thrive and perform, we need to create a happier, more supportive working culture that aims to enhance the quality of life for employees both at work and in their personal lives. This may be more valued than flexi hours or work-from-home solutions.

Building this kind of culture requires a holistic approach which includes encouraging workplace values, promoting open and authentic communication, creating a positive and productive ambience with a clear vision, and ensuring an inspiring leadership experience.

study done by the University of Warwick highlighted how happy employees were 12% more productive. Google applied similar interventions in their workforce and through creative methods of employee support, raised the happiness metric and lifted productivity by 37%.

Move your employees from surviving to thriving with coaching

There are clear benefits to working fewer hours and creating positive work cultures. Both have a measurable impact on employee well-being and performance, especially when applied together and integrated with a professional coaching initiative.

Coaching can help leaders develop strategies to improve communication, promote collaboration, develop a vision, and plan clear pathways to their business goals so that they’re empowered to make their organisation an attractive place where people thrive.

Coaching can also help leaders develop the strategic skills needed to effectively implement concepts like a 4-day work week and other flexible working options.

The well-being of employees requires a mix of initiatives and should always be our top priority. When we get this right, our people thrive, and everything else falls into place.

As a leading provider with 25 years of experience coaching leaders in blue-chip companies and government, Change Partners is perfectly positioned to help you advance.

Pauliina Mapatha is an International Executive Coach at Change Partners with a wealth of experience in human-centric, inclusive leadership development. She is passionate about helping individuals and teams in building a thriving organisational culture. Contact her at pauliinamapatha@change.co.za or on 072 215 8797 to help you take your and your team’s performance to the next level.

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