Once, a four day work week seemed like a utopian dream: A world in which we get an extra “weekend” day to enjoy our family and friends, get our pesky life admin out of the way and a chance to catch up on lost sleep? Sign us up!
But with the latest Microsoft Work Trend Index reporting 62 per cent of Aussie workers are experiencing burnout at work – the highest level of any country in the world – and even more statistics pointing to the benefits a four-day work week can bring for employers and employees alike, is it time to make the dream a reality?
That would be a resounding yes from business coach Jodie Nevid, whose own experience with burnout led her to not only reduce her own work week, but to start a business to help others do the same.
“We actually do a three-day work week – Tuesday to Thursday,” she says of The Seven Effect, a start-up which helps women discover smarter ways to work so they can achieve not just career goals, but life ones.
“Condensing your work week is very possible. As an employee it’s harder because you are up against the culture of the company. But there are always ways if you are in an organisation that is open to moving in that direction.”
Think your employer won’t be? Encourage them to check out these statistics. In a recent Australasian pilot trialing a four-day work week , 63 per cent of employers found it easier to attract and retain talent, absenteeism was reduced by 44 per cent, 54 per cent reported an increase in work ability, while 78 per cent of employees reported they were happier.
And of course, if you work for yourself, then it is up to you to set those boundaries.
So how can you achieve a four day work week? According to Jodie, the key lies in focusing on 80/20 principle.
What is the 80/20 principle?
“A lot of time gets spent on the 80 per cent of stuff that doesn’t really get us results,” she explains. “It’s about really waking up and looking at ‘What are my high value activities and how do I put the focus back on that? Twenty per cent of what you do should give you 80 per cent of your outcomes.”
A good analogy is to think of your work day as your wardrobe.
“In your wardrobe there are probably 20 per cent to the clothes that you wear 80 per cent of the time,” she explains. “And then there are 80 per cent of the clothes taking up space and not even hardly getting worn. That happens in our work day as well with the tasks we do and the places we put our focus and energy.”
Now that you’ve identified the 80/20 split, it’s time to do an audit of the elements getting in your way; the “life traps” as Jodie calls them..
“The first element is a busy brain, my head is so jammed of to do things that I can’t think straight,” she says. “The second element is the body. When our brain is busy our bodies become exhausted, and this is how we get in the traps.
“The third element is your environment. With a busy brain and an exhausted body, things start to build up in the environment – clutter, chaos, disarray. And then our relationships suffer so the fourth element is love and then the fifth element is time. And then we have money, and we have passion. What we are seeing is this pattern unfold where people go through so much, that all these elements fall down like a house of cards.”
How do I start a 4 day work week?
First, says Jodie, make a commitment to yourself. It can be harder than it appears, she admits.
“The way our brains are hardwired is that we are designed to take the path of least resistance,” she explains. “And the path of least resistance is always the path that is already the most worn. The things we’ve always done come back easier. They say it takes 28 days to create a new habit – for a new neural pathway to form in your brain,. But you need to do it every single day.
“The hardest part is actually getting women to stop and take a day (or even half a day or an hour) out of their busy life to contemplate what is it they actually want. So many of us are running on the treadmill.”
Once you’ve taken that time, think about what your ideal week looks like. “And commit to creating a 12-month goal with concrete steps that will help you get there,” Jodie says. “Check back on those goals monthly.”
How do I continue with a 4 day work week?
And remember our wardrobe analogy? The other important thing is to remember not to go shopping again now you’ve decluttered it.
“You have to stand firm, let’s not keep saying yes,” advises Jodie. “Let’s keep the spotlight on things that are giving us the 80 per cent reward on our use of them. What are our high value, low effort activities (or articles of clothing). This model spans over everything.
“Once you know all of that, you can say, ‘If I was just to do those things, what am I now letting go of?’ Take all the fillers out of the wardrobe. Take them to the op shop or you put them on Facebook Marketplace. It’s about creating those boundaries and being really clear and focused on what works and what doesn’t.
“The habits create themselves once you’ve done the deeper work to decide what it is you really want.”