May 24, 2024

A Four-Day Working Week Made Me Happier And More Productive

For four years, I worked a four-day week. Picture the scene: it’s a cold Monday in January 2021 and you can practically hear the reluctant groans of my neighbours as they gather their weary limbs from their warm beds, and shuffle down the stairs toward their coffee machine.

In just a few minutes’ time, they will be sitting in front of their laptops, still barely awake, listening to their manager discuss the goals for the week over a Zoom call. But I am in bed.

Between 2017 and the end of 2021, I was making that same pilgrimage to the coffee machine that the rest of the world were, but on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. On Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays I was off the clock. I was free.

And I use the word ‘free’ deliberately, because I was, in so many ways. A four-day week freed me from Sunday blues; it freed me from the idea that there was one set routine, one way of doing things; and one which we must subscribe to from the moment we enter the working world until we leave it.

A four-day working week freed me from clock watching and twiddling my thumbs, from trying to appear busy when really I was secretly scrolling through the latest pictures of Harry Styles in various Gucci accessories and thinking about where I want to next go on holiday.

And now, as people across England and Wales return from their four-day Easter weekend, I am once again reminded of how much joy, empowerment and success there is to be found in this rebalanced working week/weekend ratio.

You’ve likely read about the four-day working week trial that has been launched across the UK. Around 30 companies – including tech firm Canon – are taking part in the initiative, after this model of working has proven hugely successful in other countries (and if you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, you can find all the info here).

As people return from their four-day Easter weekend, I am once again reminded of how much joy, empowerment and success there is to be found in this rebalanced working week/weekend ratio.

However, having always been freelance, this way of working was something that I intuitively put in place for myself after a debilitating stint of burnout back five years ago. Because the thing about working a five-day week is that really, when all is said and done, you’re working six days. Yes, on a Saturday we can make the most of our free time, but very often, our Sunday is spent preparing for –  and dreading –  the week ahead. Our brain starts to fill up with our to-do list again, and over time, this lifestyle creates increased stress and anxiety; something I experienced first-hand during those bleak months back in 2017 when my body – and my brain – just gave up on me.

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