How a 4-day work week can help reduce burnout in women
As the four-day work week gains popularity among companies across the globe, some say this model could help shift a workplace culture that is often leaving women behind.
A trial run of the work model by the U.K. not-for-profit organization 4 Day Week Global found business revenue went up and employees had an improved work-life balance when full-time employees’ worked one less day a week. The companies participated in variously structured four-day work models, all of which involved a reduction in work time while employees maintained their full pay.
Additionally, the trial found men increased their child-care responsibilities by 27 per cent, in comparison to women, whose child-care duties grew an estimated 13 per cent.
“It’s not just equity in the workplace, it’s equity at home as well, where men are more likely to take on caring responsibilities, to take on household duties, and that’s what’s going to even out the playing field,” Grace Tallon, head of operations at Work Time Reduction Centre of Excellence, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Wednesday.
And it’s not only women with children experiencing inequity, Tallon says, since other family responsibilities often fall on women as well. Whether it’s taking care of elderly parents or other family members, she says it’s most often women sacrificing their career goals to take on these responsibilities.
“It’s not just working moms,” Tallon said. “You’re caring for older parents or carrying for other family members that need support, and it’s generally women that do that.”
Since the pandemic, women have been experiencing an increased amount of burnout. According to a 2022 report by Deloitte, 46 per cent of 5,000 women in 10 different countries reported feeling burned out from work, and 53 per cent reported higher levels of stress than the previous year.
A NEEDED SHIFT IN WORKPLACE CULTURE
Professor of strategy at the University of Toronto and executive director of the Initiative for Women in Business Beatrix Dart says this model will only work to the employees’ benefit if boundaries are created to ensure they aren’t being taken advantage of, particularly when it comes to technology.
Following the pandemic, technology allowed for more people to be set up to work from home, and while this allowed for more flexibility for some, it also blurred the lines between a work-life balance.
“We’ve got to leverage technology to maybe allow us to work more from home but we also don’t want you to work on those days that you are not supposed to work,” Dart told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Wednesday.
Dart says technology can be used to limit the overtime work; for example, using AI technology like automated messages to help during the off-work hours, or perhaps shutting the company network for some employees to discourage working overtime if they’re tempted to check their emails.
“You need a workplace culture where it is OK to not check your messages for those three days you’re not in,” she said.