The health benefits of working a four-day working week
By Dr Tom MacLaren
There are many potential mental health benefits to working a four-day week and this is already something that a number of major companies in the US and Europe and starting to implement. This is a time when, more than ever, people are being given freedom to take more annual leave, work from home flexibly and plan their time and I’s no surprising that UK companies are starting to embrace; it could be very beneficial to both employees and employers.
Mental health benefits of a four-day working week:
Employees may notice an increase in productivity during the day and more energy and motivation. Some four-day weeks compress hours and some reduce them overall, but all of them give an extra day of free time for people to enjoy! This could mean more time for hobbies and past-times, exercise, planning your healthier diet and even getting important tasks and life admin done for the week. Organising our time well with doing DIY, booking health check appointments, mindfulness, exercise and planning time away and other free time is a great way to boost your health and wellbeing. It is so much easier to do this with an extra free day!
Physical health benefits:
The shifted focus on getting work done across four days rather than five could help people re-think and improve time management. This could be a time to plan better sleep hygiene, use the extra flexible time to rise later in the day and have an easier morning, without having to rush. The extra day off could help boost wellbeing such as extending your usual exercise routines, meal planning or building more active time into your day (walking rather than driving or catching public transport). It is very likely that simply having the extra day that is yours will have benefits for your physical health, with lower levels of stress compared to the strict routines of a workday. Relaxation and a slower pace of life can do wonders for our physical and mental health.
Who benefits most from a four-day working week?
People who already juggle a lot in their lives could be helped most by having the extra day. Those recovering from mental illness will have more time to engage in mindfulness, talking therapies and even online support in addition to attending community wellbeing activities. Parents with young children will have more time for childcare and to plan their week, which could include free time for them, when children are in school. Employers offering the flexibility of a four-day week can benefit those looking to move into less than full-time and other flexible working, including more remote work and meeting the needs of people with disabilities.
The drawbacks of working a four-day week:
Reducing the working week to four days might take some getting used to. Some people might need time and support to help plan their workload so that it fits well into the four-day pattern. This pattern of working might not be for everyone and those with anxiety about their working life might find their symptoms worsen at first. It is important to discuss the planned change with your line manager and team and review how the new pattern is working. It might be that small adjustments to hours worked; length and number of meetings and the balance between office-based and remote work could help you adjust faster.