Four-Day Workweeks Have Some Hidden Costs

Work flexibility often tops lists of millennials' most-preferred job benefits. Being in control of your start and end time can help you maximize your focus and productivity. Similarly, having the option to work remotely some days is a huge perk for some offices. But imagine if that extended to how many days you could work. If you compressed the five-day workweek into four, isn't that just a longer break and lowered operational costs?

Allard Dembe, a professor of public health at Ohio State University, says the research doesn't support the theory. "I have been studying the health effects of long working hours for nearly 30 years," he writes for The Conversation. "All the studies point to the potential dangers that can occur as the result of the additional risks created when work demands exceed a particular threshold."

It's true that all the time we waste at work, checking Facebook and recovering from interruptions, does add up. But most people aren't built for 10 or more continuous hours of work, which is the usual way companies that have tried implementing four-day workweeks achieve them. You know how, at the end the day, you can read a sentence in an email four or five times and still not understand it? That's not just being tired — it's decision fatigue. Our brains really do use up our ability to focus on a task after a certain point.

Dembe found that shortening workweeks without lightening workloads can increase stress enough to affect your health. "Most of the studies I have performed suggest that the dangers are most pronounced when people regularly work more than 12 hours per day or 60 hours per week," he writes. As forward-thinking as four-day workweeks sound in the C-suite, you'll do much better work when you're properly rested and able to take real breaks. American workers already report being overwhelmed on the job, and four 10-hour days are a very different proposition than five eight-hour days.

If you're having trouble structuring your day and getting enough work done, there are solutions that don't involve sort-of-but-not-really overtime. Try time-management techniques like the Pomodoro Method. Shorter workweeks may not be the answer, but shorter, timed tasks can take you far.