What to Consider Before Switching to Compressed Workweeks
Before switching to a compressed schedule, you should set realistic expectations about work/life balance. Keep in mind that leisure and rest is important to your health and productivity both on and off the clock. In fact, research indicates that periods of idleness may actually improve cognitive function.
Despite being only about 2% of your total body weight, the brain consumes 20% of your body’s total energy. That means that the sustained focus of a compressed workday comes with extra fatigue — even if you’re sitting at a desk all day. Without planning time for rest, leisure, and idleness, compressed days could quickly lead to burnout.
In his book, Autopilot: The Art and Science of Doing Nothing, Andrew Smart writes, “The old adage that ‘the dishes don’t do themselves’ does not apply to the brain… In your brain, the dishes do wash themselves if you leave them alone.” Smart, a researcher specializing in neuroscience and technology, argues that the brain is never truly idle, even when we’re at rest. The result is that scheduled downtime is crucial to maintaining cognitive performance.
Compressed work schedules are the subject of ongoing research. A 2022 study published in State and Government Review examined the effects of the 4/10 workweek on government workers in the small town of Zorra, Ontario, Canada. The results indicated that, while 43% of workers had no concerns with the 4-day workweek, the longer hours did pose some problems in arranging for childcare and other responsibilities at home.
Ultimately, 73% of respondents said they would like to continue working a 4/10 schedule. However, employee satisfaction — which was high before the pilot — was unchanged after the study’s conclusion. This suggests that strong leadership and good workplace culture are the most important factors when it comes to retaining employees.