Why a three-day weekend should become more standardized

Ahhh, another Manic Monday. As I reflect on last weekend’s three-day long holiday weekend, I remember what having just one day off does for my mental health.

Take this past holiday, Labor Day, for example: this public holiday was designated to honor working people. It’s a holiday that was conceived for the sole purpose of giving working people a break from their 40 plus hour work weeks. I’m not sure how much more literal than that you can get!

However, in the interest of playing devil’s advocate, here are five reasons, backed by statistics, why three-day weekends are so valuable, and why it would be beneficial to make this obligatory time off a more permanent fixture in the work year.

  1. Regular long weekends would maximize attention span. We all live in the digital age and as such, our exposure to modes of distraction is greater than ever. So great, in fact, that our attention span for digital tasks is just 40 seconds. Think about it — you’re in the middle of compiling a presentation and you receive an email. You glance at the email, only to spend the next ten minutes replying to it, and lose focus on your presentation. This constant switching of focus from one task to another impairs workflow and thereby productivity (literally): it takes approximately 16 minutes to refocus on a task at hand after addressing incoming email. An easy solution to this problem? Studies suggest that more breaks and exercise contribute to better focus. And wouldn’t it be even better if there were an extra day in your weekend to practice mindfulness and come back feeling refreshed?
  2. Develop better office habits as a result. The average employee checks his or email 36 times an hour. 15% of an organization’s time is spent in meetings, and of those meetings, 92% of attendees reported multitasking, resulting in wasted time spent that could otherwise be used productively. A shorter workweek would force employees and management to better allocate time for meetings, identify ways to keep employees engaged during meetings, and ultimately reduce the kind of multitasking that takes away from an efficient workweek.
  3. Taking time for yourself and your relationships outside of work manages stress and improves health. Workplace stress is one of the most common contributing factors to poor performance and productivity: two-thirds of Americans say that work is the main source of stress in their lives. And what’s one of the main things that combat this stress? Healthy social relationships. Humans are social beings; it is practically written into our DNA that we need companionship to thrive. Even those who consider themselves the most introverted will find that living an isolated life does not do anything for them in the way of reducing stress or improving health. People who make time for social relationships will inevitably live longer, have fewer health problems, and ultimately, that increased happiness will transfer to the workplace. In addition, having hobbies outside of work and making time for yourself gives you new perspective on how you view your work. If we never took the time to learn new skills and only focused on the walls of our cubicle, we would never bring the kinds of ideas to the table that make up our professional success. A three day workweek would make all of the above possible, and so much more. An extra day to continue to bolster our social relationships, and spend time to ourselves, all for the sake of living a longer, healthier life. What could be better?!
  4. Save valuable company money. One study found that nearly $300 million is lost in work productivity due to stress-related symptoms, including stress-induced mental health illnesses, and burnt-out, overworked, and fatigued employees. And, more than $37 billion per year is spent on unproductive meetings. Shorter work weeks mean less time wasted and more time spent identifying how to accomplish tasks within the time allotted. It also means that when employees are on the clock, they won’t experience the telltale symptoms of stress — or at least, not as frequently. Sounds like a no-brainer, right?
  5. Long weekends would ultimately help rewire our brains and re-prioritize our values. Five days a week in an office can be grueling. While the average workday is eight hours, let’s be real: we live in a culture where we never truly “unplug.” We keep our phones close, our email alerts on, and even if we’re not physically on-the-clock, our brains constantly tuned in. According to a poll by Gallup, there is no such thing as the 40-hour workweek, and the numbers don’t lie. Only 8% of employees claim to work less than 40 hours and 50% of full-time employees claim to work more than 40 hours. All things considered, that’s not even including the hours spent on weekends reading emails! A three day weekend would do so much good in rejigging the overall work-life balance mentality; in fact, it might result in employees actually practicing a work-life balance! Imagine that craziness.

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