Article by Fabrício Oliveira, CEO of Vockan Consulting*
Work has been part of our lives since we have existed as individuals – with few exceptions. We teach children that parents need to work to support the house, that there are different professions and, usually, we ask “what do you want to be when you grow up?” referring to what job they want to have.
In the society we build, work occupies a fundamental part of the structure of our lives and directly impacts our family and personal relationships. The concept of “successful” is often directly related to our position and professional advancement. And it is in pursuit of this success that, in the composition of our days, we end up spending more time with office colleagues than with those we love most deeply.
Because it is so important, it always draws my attention to the way we relate to the work itself – not only with what we do (which we can love or not), but also with the environment in which we exercise our craft and how we see that this space must and can be to make sense that we choose it every day.
The 4-Day week
I have the habit of talking individually with members of the different teams that make up the company. For me, it’s important to keep track of the reality of the business, not to become unreachable and to be able to see the company from the perspective of who really makes it exist: the people who work with me.
When we implemented the four-day week at Vockan, the positive results soon followed. In addition to productivity having grown by 23%, the feeling of happiness among employees has increased. Obviously, I wanted to hear from the participants what they were thinking about having extended weekends.
In one of these conversations, the surprise came. An employee I’ve known for years – extremely competent and dedicated, who understands everything about her area – declared: I didn’t like it. “Really? Don’t you like not having to work on Mondays?”, I tried to confirm that what I had understood was real. But, that was it, she hadn’t enjoyed the experience. She told me that she felt guilty about her son seeing her off, and worried about the example she was setting by not working on a weekday.
The four-day week is a disruption from a model that has been applied since the 1920s, when Fordism calcified that we should work five out of the seven days of the week. It is a century of “tradition”, but it is worth remembering that before that the journey was six days and it was the quest to increase productivity and reduce absences that made the industrialist propose two days of rest. 100 years later, we are at the same crossroads. We need to produce more and, at the same time, preserve the mental health of our employees.
The role of work in our lives
I confess that I didn’t expect anyone not to adapt to having more free time and that made me reflect on the role of work in our lives. Maybe, because work is something so natural in life, we don’t look at it as an object, that is something that can be changed, improved and even dropped.
How many times have we heard that the important thing is to be employed, no matter where? Working with purpose is beautiful, until the bills knock on the door, right? I agree. There are times we all go through when we have to accept the work at hand before taking the next step. But the fact is that we can no longer let the limit of our mental health be exceeded because if we succumb there will be nothing to work for.
Over time, the collaborator I mentioned above managed to reframe the experience and told me that she was fully adapted. I hope that the example the four-day week can provide is one of balance.
We don’t need to wait for retirement to experience the joy of being with our families. Work doesn’t have to suck up the best years of our lives. This new model is here to stay because we will be companies, people and a better world based on it.
*Article originally published on RH Pra Você (Brazil).