This question has been asked by many employees as they sit at their desks feeling the burnout of another long week. What is a workweek? By definition, it is typically about 5 days or 40 hours of the week. Now, some people regularly work overtime that would extend those numbers, but most people will work around the 40 hour mark per week.
What number of days should you work per week? Should the work week be less than 5 days? Let’s see what some of our favorite business gurus had to say on this matter:
Employers Thoughts About Studies on This Topic
Many employees have searched the internet to learn about this - perhaps with the idea of pitching it to their employer, but what do employers think of these studies? There’s probably a reason they all haven’t immediately jumped on board.
“I think there is merit to the work that’s been done to study these organizations that utilize shorter work weeks,” says Hector Gutierrez, CEO of JOI. “There are even entire countries that have adopted abbreviated workweeks. I’d be interested in learning more about how they maintain efficiency and productivity when operating on this schedule.”
“This is a great concept in theory but I would hesitate to immediately jump on board,” says Matt Rubright, Head of Growth for Candidate. “I understand an employee's wish to have more time for family and hobbies, but I would be concerned that it would cause more stress in the workplace. Having more time off would not be beneficial to anyone if they’re using the entire time to recover from the stress and anxiety caused by being overloaded at work.”
Like with most major changes that could occur in a workplace, creating an abbreviated work week would look vastly different in every industry and every workplace within each industry.
“I’ve actually been sent some of these articles by my coworkers and friends who manage their own companies,” says Daniel Osman, Head of Sales for Balance Homes. “I think more studies would need to be done and a major overhaul of our current practices would have to happen across the nation for a shorter work week to work. It seems like the countries that practice these shorter work days have a cultural value on how to spend time off and I don’t know that it would have the same effect here.”
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Like with most major changes that could occur in a workplace, creating an abbreviated work week would look vastly different in every industry and every workplace within each industry. One size does not fit all in this scenario.
“I think I could see the benefit of this in some places, but in workplaces that require lengthier or consistent hours due to customer interactions or projects, I just don't see how it would work,” says Michael Hennessy, Founder and CEO of Diathrive. “It would make for a challenging scheduling process, that’s for sure. And if people are working different shifts to cover the hours they need to cover, group meetings would probably be near impossible.”
“I could see this concept working well for some large organizations that have the manpower to accommodate the change in the scheduling their staff while maintaining the workload, but I find it hard to imagine smaller businesses being able to do the same,” says Seb Evans Co-Founder of Banquist. “Especially after the past couple of years, most businesses are just trying to keep moving forward at this point. I’m not sure that this major change would work fantastically well. However, now that we’re all used to working from home and have systems in place for that, I could see it becoming more common practice for people to customize their work schedule and take a day or two per week to work from home if possible.”
Boundaries Matter More Than The Number of Workdays
We live in a world where ‘burnout’ has become an unfortunate norm for so many employees. But this brings the following question to mind: is it the number of hours they’re working or the way they establish their work-life boundaries that is the culprit?
“We live in a world that allows us to be connected to each other 24/7. Prior to the millennial generation entering the workplace, you left work when you walked out of the office,” says Remon Aziz, Chief Operating Officer for Advantage. “Now, they leave the office and probably check their work email and messages a few times before they even walk in the door. They’re constantly checking to see if they need to know anything for the next day and will often respond as soon as they see the message. They’re setting themselves up for burnout by failing to disconnect from work when they’re off the clock and we as employers need to be the ones making sure they remember to cut that cord when they walk out of the office.”
“The ability to work remotely has been both a blessing and a curse for many. On one hand, some people feel they are more efficient and they can spend more time with family because they’re not commuting,” says Brandon Amoroso, Founder and CEO of electrIQ marketing. “On the other hand it makes it a bit harder to not spend time with your family when you can hear them from down the hall. Working from home can also make some employees feel the need to prove themselves and push themselves too hard to show that they’re still doing their work and that alone is something that we as employers need to make sure we’re not encouraging. Project management tools and regular check-ins can provide a much needed middleman for both you and your employee to monitor progress. Shortening the work week will do nothing if we don’t establish healthy work habits.”
“I’ve noticed that employees are often putting their work emails and messaging platforms on their personal phones and devices for convenience while at work, but I worry that some of them are not putting them away when they leave work in the evening,” says Ryan Rottman, Co-Founder & CEO of OSDB. “We’ve all developed that fear of missing out - FOMO - that we joked about a few years ago. It’s definitely in the workplace now. Nobody wants to miss an email or a message and we as employers need to recognize that our staff are putting that added pressure on themselves and that’s leading to burnout.”
“I think some people have forgotten what it’s like to actually take the day off and not work at all for a full day or two,” says Jeff Meeks, VP of Sales and Marketing for EnergyFit. “Boundaries between work and home have blurred and social media doesn’t help with the pressures either. The 5 day work week is nothing new, but the way we spend our time off has changed dramatically. Time off should be spent doing something that lets you relax and have fun after a long week - it shouldn’t be spent staring at another screen or checking your work email. Creating boundaries and prioritizing your own needs for a couple of days per week can really prevent burnout.”
It turns out, this isn’t a straightforward question. The ultimate answer is ‘it depends’ but a lot of our sources actually seem to think there are things you can be doing to make your days off count. Make your life less stressful by learning to disconnect from your work when you aren’t on the clock. Sign out of your email on personal devices so you’re not tempted to check it and spend time doing things you love to do so you’re recharged for the next week.