Dr. Patricia Farrell on Medika Life

Working Less Is Not Goofing Off — It Makes Mental Health Sense

Too often, taking a "mental health day" off or working four days instead of five is riddled with guilt because we believe not working is wrong and that we should work a whole week.

The work we do is one way we determine who we are (and others do as well) and our worth. What is one of the first questions someone might ask when first meeting you? “What do you do?” is a usual question. We never think to ask, “Do about what?” We tell them what type of work we do. It’s a test of our worth in the culture.

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted work and self-perception in several ways. One way is that it has encouraged more people to work remotely (aka a hybrid model), which has altered how work is performed and viewed. It has also increased workloads and job insecurity resulting in feelings of stress and uncertainty.

For new hires, it has presented challenges few had to face before the WFH (work from home) model, and limited opportunities to interact with other employees physically. This can erode essential aspects of corporate culture, loyalty, and expectations regarding promotions and learning.

The pandemic has also changed people’s sense of who they are personally and professionally. Some people may feel that their work has more meaning now, while others may re-evaluate their priorities. Now, in addition to the WFH model, we need to consider the decrease from a five-day-a-week model to one day less.

A four-day workweek may seem like a pipe dream to some, but it’s a reality for many companies and employees. There are benefits to working a four-day workweek, including:

  1. Increased Productivity

Compressing work into four days may mean fewer co-worker interruptions, meetings, or phone calls. A block of time can be cleared for intense work activity mixed with time to relax and refresh a bit without the regimented time constraints of the “coffee break.” Here, the idea meshes well with the Pomodoro Technique.

Does anyone know why coffee breaks were instituted? Lore has it that health insurance played a role in a belief that decreased stress led to healthier employees and less use of health insurance benefits, which lowered premiums for employers.

A coffee break encourages workers to talk to each other, which leads to more creative ways to solve problems at work. Scientists at Bell Labs may have developed the first transistors around the coffee cart.

2. Improved Work/Life Balance

Your work/life balance may be enhanced by working four days a week. Three days off will give you more time to focus on your personal life and interests.

3. Less Stress

Stress levels may decrease if you work fewer hours. You’ll be less stressed because you’ll have more time to unwind, enjoy your personal life, and engage in hobbies. The value of hobbies cannot be overstated. This may result in a more upbeat attitude toward work and a decline in stress-related health issues.

4. More Time for Family and Friends

A four-day workweek leaves more time for family and friends. One challenge the pandemic presented was restrictions on interactions with family, friends, and even neighbors. You can use your three-day weekends to take a break from the hustle and bustle of work and restore and strengthen these ties.

5. Increased Job Satisfaction

Four-day work weeks generally result in happier workers who are more content with their positions. This is probably because they think they have a better work-life balance and less stress at work.

There are benefits, but there are also problems that come with less office interaction and less supervision of employee activities by management. Let’s say a company decided that watching their workers’ computer keystrokes would be a good way to ensure they were working. Having Big Brother lurking over your shoulder while you’re working isn’t very comforting.

A healthy mix of WFH and occasional office visits might be a suitable solution. Who’s going to do the research?

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Medika Life has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by Medika Life

Pat Farrell PhDhttps://medium.com/@drpatfarrell
I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.

DR PATRICIA FARRELL

Medika Editor: Mental Health

I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.

Patricia also acts in an editorial capacity for Medika's mental health articles, providing invaluable input on a wide range of mental health issues.

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