There are ways as individuals we can deal with work burnout, but there are also organizational and cultural shifts happening that try to address this growing problem.
The Four-Day Work Week
This summer, Microsoft Japan started a four-day work week challenge, with workers essentially gaining a three-day weekend, while keeping the same pay. Microsoft now claims that productivity jumped by 40% during this period. Is this the future of work?
Five-day workweek, eight-hour work days, these may be the norm, but that hasn’t always been. Agricultural societies relied on seasons, weather, and the sun rising and setting for their work schedule. The concept of a two-day weekend or five straight days of work emerged during the industrial era, born from the negotiations and tensions between factory/assembly-line workers and titans such as Henry Ford, finding ways to balance employee morale with profit.
But for a lot of us nowadays, work is rooted in the digital space. We check and reply to messages whether we are physically in the office or not, before or after “work hours”.
When it comes to work burnout, the same gadgets that are designed to increase productivity or at least make life more efficient, are making it a challenge to disengage from work.
84% of millennials rank work-life balance as the most important factor when evaluating a job prospect.Flexjobs Survey
Alternatives or the Beginning of the Modern Work Schedule
It takes time for ideas to seep into mainstream culture and solidify into laws, but experiments such as the four-day workweek by Microsoft, move us forward towards reshaping the new workplace. Microsoft is not an isolated case. In 2018, a New Zealand company, Perpetual Guardian, made the four-day workweek permanent, after trying it out and saw a 20% increase in productivity and a 45% increase in work-life balance. Workers in general were more focused and satisfied.
Companies such as Linkedin and Zillow offer OPEN-ENDED discretionary time-off (DTO). Instead of instituting a set number of vacation days, managers work with employees to schedule vacation time. Tech companies that face strong competition to attract engineers and high skilled employees are the first ones to embrace this route.
Another way to address work-life balance are flexible schedules, which allow employees to choose their own work hours. For jobs that are based on projects, the metric for success is completion and meeting deadlines, not necessarily what time of the day or day of the week you chose to work.
As work becomes less about repetition and requires more logic and creative thinking, the idea of sitting at a desk for a whole day, five days a week, doesn’t quite match up. Added to the fact that portable devices have made the idea of taking work wherever you go, the new normal.