Rest- The Most Neglected Four Letter Word

Rest is possibly the most ignored four letter word for our generation. We glorify our overworking, over exercising, over addiction to social media, over watching our favorite shows, overeating and then, over fasting lifestyles. We are glued into our devices 24*7 and have major FOMO even if we as much as take a bathroom break.

So this must mean our generation would be super-fit, high achieving, highly connected individuals, right? Why then is there a massive increase in cardiovascular diseases in the past century? Why do the mental illnesses seem to be on all time high? Why is there a mass feeling of fatigue and burnout in the population? Isn’t it time we take a step back to think what it might be that we are doing wrong?

I have been intrigued with the concept of 4 day work week and 4 hour work day for a while now. Being a typical Type A personality in the initial years of my education and career, slowing down was synonymous with being lazy or just not doing enough for me. I was forced to relook at this approach once I became a mother- not just for myself, but for the wellbeing of my family. Also, being a people experience professional, I am constantly searching for ways to enhance people’s productivity and engagement without causing well… a burnout!

I started researching on who started thinking of the concept of 4 day work week and why. Apparently, the 5 day work week was a concept which was designed in the 1920s that too on push by the labor unions. Needless to say, the way we do business has dramatically changed since then but the 5 day work week has still stuck on.

One of the pioneers of 4 day work week was Andrew Barnes, Founder and CEO of Perpetual Guardian. Post implementation of the policy, the organization saw that it became twice as productive on per capita basis as its nearest competitor and the employees were less stressed, happier and more creative.

Microsoft Japan saw an increase in productivity by 40% and also saw a reduction in electricity costs by 23%. That sounds like a win-win for all – the organization, the employees as well as the environment! They also decreased the length of their meetings from 1 hour to ½ an hour with a maximum of five attendees. I believe all of us could do with a little less zoom meetings right now.

More recently, in India, cybersecurity company TAC Security has moved to 4 days week closing on Fridays for increased productivity.

At the heart of this philosophy lies the fact that happy employee = happy customer. If you ensure employee has a good week, he is more productive, there are lesser sick days, and innovative ability is higher.

Not just 4 hour work week, there are organizations who are now considering 4 hour work days. Would that work? How will we ever finish the workload which never seems to get finished in even 8 hours?

Well, the science behind this says that most of us are capable of only 4 hours of cognitive work per day (unless you are superwoman or superman, in which case, please stop reading this article and go save the world!). The actual deep work that we do is possible only for 4 hours every day, the rest is pretty much distracted work like endless emails, meetings and minutes of those meetings. Studies prove that when you work longer hours, your productivity plummets, not to mention your ability to think ingeniously.

The shorter work day gives employees time to focus on their physical and mental wellbeing and helps maintain a work-life balance. This leaves them refreshed and able to contribute more towards work.

So what exactly should we do with these extra 4 hours which we have suddenly gotten in our day? Netflix and Chill?

As tempting as that may be (and I am absolutely guilty of doing it), author Alex Soojung – Kim Pang in his book says that it is not passive relaxation but ‘active rest’  which we need to actually reap the maximum benefits of these extra hours which we now have at our hand. So what exactly is active rest? It is any activity which we are so deeply immersed in that we forget our work stresses. Remember the time when you lost sense of time while reading a good book or painting that picture? That is what he is talking about. It could be trekking, running, cycling, writing or meditating for you – anything which engages you deeply. You come out more energized, creative and fulfilled on the other side.

Two years ago, we could not fathom a world where the entire economies were functioning remotely (and still being productive). This change is probably what is needed to meet the demands of highly dynamic workforce in a hot job market. The flexibility to work anytime and anywhere and on your own terms.

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