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Less Work, More Productivity?! Should CEOs shorten their workweek?

Is a shorter workweek possible? Is this the right choice for your company? Several years ago, many only dreamed of it but never considered it would happen, but dreams do come true. Today, business owners of large and small firms are experimenting with the idea and working out ways to make it a reality.

On the heels of the pandemic, the possibilities of more flexible work hours and the gains of a shorter workweek dawned on the corporate world; add in the importance of rest and work-life balance to employee morale, engagement, and overall productivity.

From Spain to New Zealand to the US, the idea of a four-day workweek has been gaining popularity. In Spain, the government recently agreed to a 3-year pilot to test a 32-hour workweek without reducing employee pay. In 2020, Jacinda Arden, New Zealand Prime Minister, proposed the four-day workweek to increase productivity.

Recent research indicates that 83% of US workers believe that a four-day workweek would cut burnout, and 53% reported that they were already experiencing burnout.

Media CEO Chelsea Fagan, who has been implementing four-day workweeks, recently tweeted that "Revenue increased, everyone became happier, and the same work gets done." This and similar feedback from firms with reduced work hours show that longer hours don't translate to more productivity.

Although shifting to a four-day workweek will not be easy for all firms, the pandemic, increased mental wellbeing, and physical health concerns make a compelling case for flexible work for CEOs and employees. CEOs have much to gain from shortening their workweek. Notorious workaholics, CEOs often suffer from the ill effects of overworking including exhaustion, dehydration, stress-related diseases including depression, anxiety and insomnia. Many CEOs have incorporated self-care regimens to stay healthy and to de-stress but still work just as many hours - some racking up 80-100 hours a week. A case can be made for CEOs to shorten their work week.

There has been talk of the 4-hour work week, a model in which an entrepreneur only works 4 hours a week popularized by author Timothy Ferriss. While this can be achieved through delegation, many CEOs find it hard to relinquish so much control. It is important, however, for CEOs to start to think of work as less of personal sacrifice for the greater good and more a collective effort for the maximum greater good. Think of 2 or more heads being better than 1 working long hours. CEOs and the world would benefit from healthier management that are sharing in the responsibilities of building long lasting companies.

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