By Darren Lum
When it comes to life there is a relationship between time and emotional capacity.
Spend most of your waking hours working and see how much patience you have for the slow-talker or for a long-winded delivery of an explanation. Or evaluate your diet after a busy work week when lunch is eaten several hours after breakfasts on a consistent basis. Your body and mind will not be satiated. The lunch break is more than just eating. It’s a mental break from the rigours of work, which varies depending on the industry. It’s all stress. Stress is manageable until it’s not. I heard somewhere to perceive stress like you’re holding a glass of water. It’s pretty light and manageable over a few minutes, but prolong it to a few hours and days and it becomes an intolerable burden.
This same understanding can apply to the stress carried out over an entire work week when there isn’t enough time off from work to help recharge for the following week.
When the Municipality of Algonquin Highlands moved to employing its eight-month trial of a four-day work week earlier this year it drew a lot of interest and is something I’m sure many people will be looking at for how it goes in Haliburton County. From a Times article in June, staff are working a compressed work week, which means more hours each day. For example, staff who work a 40 hour work week will work 10 hours each day from Monday to Thursday. As reported in the Times, the municipality is employing a two-team approach to “ensure seamless and consistent customer service delivery for all municipal stakeholders,” according to Algonquin Highlands CAO Angie Bird’s report to council. This wasn’t implemented across all departments. The parks, recreation and trails department operates on a seven day per week schedule and did not opt in to the policy.
This isn’t a radical idea. It’s been happening in countries around the world such as Iceland, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia where they signed up to try the shortened week through the global non-profit 4 Day Week, which was started by the founders of an estate planning company in New Zealand that implemented the change for staff in 2018, as reported by CBC. Since 2015, Iceland has employed a four-day work week for its national government and Reykjavik city council staff. The governments worked with unions to implement a four year plan. In the UK they’re running a four-day work week pilot program, which includes 3,300 workers across a variety of sectors for the next few months. These initiatives outside of Canada didn’t add hours or subtract pay. There are also examples of businesses in Canada doing the same thing.
Researchers evaluating the early results of four-day work weeks report employees are healthier and staff turnover is reduced. This means employers put less effort and time towards recruiting employees, saving money.
Employers can lament the lazy and non-committed workers, but the future is looking pretty bleak if all we do is whine about the present and do nothing else. It’s time for action. Employers don’t even have to be that brave. Just copy others and give a four-day work week a try where possible.
We all know we can’t expect a different result by doing the same thing. Less hours for greater productivity and health is something employers need to apply to implement and ensure those of us left working remain healthy because burn out leaves us empty and unable to perform at work or in life. A healthier work force could lead to not just a healthier bottom line in the financial sense, but also in the emotional sense, which can improve relations we have with loved one, colleagues, and strangers. The only question is are we willing to take the risk for something that serves us all?