This article was written with baby boomers in mind—specifically, those without children at home. Parents of young children will do better considering other flexible work options.
What boomer hasn’t bordered on burn-out some time in their career? Including you, perhaps?
When quitting your job isn’t an option and there’s no short-term sabbatical on the horizon, what practical alternative do you have?
While there’s no quick fix, spending stretches of time on a relaxing interest outside of work creates a restorative mental shift. Let’s look at how that could work for you.
Do you have a languishing hobby that needs more time and attention? Are you wondering how to find “extra” hours for your interests without trading income or benefits to get it?
One approach is to redesign your job into a compressed workweek of four, 10-hour days. (I know, I know; you’re already working 10-hour days, so how can you slice off one day a week? I’ll get to that in a minute.)
Burn-Out Gets Painted Away by a Four Day Work Week
Stella is the Senior Art Director for a medium-sized advertising firm whose true passion is oil painting. The demands of her job had her working a crazy schedule, leaving her love of painting neglected for years.
Stella couldn’t afford to cut her salary to return to her painting, so she first assessed and modified her job to shift some of the responsibilities to her two ambitious assistant art directors—a career development pay-off for them.
Then she negotiated to restructure her schedule into a compressed workweek, which gave her every Wednesday to devote to her long-lost hobby.
Stella’s redesigned workweek allows her to paint regularly for several uninterrupted hours, which she says has “restored” her; it is a relaxing expression of her creativity and it “cured” her burn-out.
How to Ramp Down Excess Hours
Now, what if you’re a salaried employee working 45-50+ hours a week at the office as the expected norm? How do you justify taking off one day a week (up to 20% reduction in hours) without a cut in salary? Here are a few strategies to consider:
1. Ask for it. Sometimes it’s that straightforward, if you’re well-positioned to make such a request. You could adapt the strategy I used. (The hours I describe aren’t a match, but the 20% figure is).
2. Start reining in your hours to reach 40-45 a week. Use elimination (of low value tasks), delegation, boundary-setting and work redesign as a team to pare down duties. Once you have a handle on the “new norm” (but with work deliverables maintained), you’ll be in a better position to propose a compressed workweek.
3. Get approval to telecommute one day a week before requesting a compressed workweek. For most people, working remotely increases productivity by double-digits. This in turn fosters the goal of reigning in work hours (see #2, above). Then, when you’re ready to propose a compressed workweek, you can restate your case for telecommuting one day a week (fewer interruptions, increased productivity), and arrange to come into the office the remaining three days.
Tip: Choose your “off” day to match your energy levels and your rhythms of work and play. Wednesdays off allows you to handle shopping, a vet visit or a haircut so your weekends can truly be a time of rest from the workweek. Choosing Fridays as your “off” day extends your weekends.
Is a Compressed Workweek Right for You?
Before you decide on a compressed workweek, assess its pros and cons as they relate to your lifestyle and work-life needs. If you decide to move forward, here’s the first page of your compressed workweek proposal.
A Better Burn-Out Cure
After you’ve followed through on the above strategies, start planning your short-term sabbatical. Download a 53-page guide to getting management approval of six weeks off to travel.