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The unexpected psychological impact of a three-day weekend

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Kayleigh Dray
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Print this, laminate it and show it to your boss.

The days are getting shorter, our wardrobes are slowly filling up with leopard print, and there’s a decided chill in the air. It can only mean one thing: the end of summer is nigh. And, as ever, people in the UK are set to send off the sunniest season in style with a three-day weekend.

Naturally, you’re spoiled for choice this bank holiday: there are gorgeous pub walks aplenty to consider, not to mention all of the beautiful UK beaches, foodie events, dance parties and monster bouncy castles on offer. And let’s not forget all the new books waiting to be read, films to be watched and Netflix box-sets to be binged.

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Whatever you decide to do, though, there’s no denying that a three-day weekend allows professionals to enjoy more time away from work to sleep, relax and clear their minds. No small thing, especially when you consider the fact that a traditional two-day weekend does more harm than good.

That’s right: a recent study has suggested that a two-day weekend acts as more of a disruption to the circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock that directs sleep cycles) and can impair people’s moods and mental capacities upon returning to work. While people can make up for some of the sleep they missed during the week (whether it be by sleeping in or afternoon naps) two days of sleeping in is enough to adjust the circadian rhythm such that they have to jolt back into their regular rhythm when they wake up early on Monday morning.

When people get that extra day off to relax, though, they have more time to sleep, exercise, or work on their relationships. 

The result? A clearer mind and a happier outlook during the week.

It is worth noting that a three-day weekend doesn’t just benefit employees: it also benefits bosses, too. Earlier this year, a company in New Zealand implemented an eight-week trial, which saw workers come in for just four days a week.

The results were overwhelmingly positive: before the trial commenced, just over half (54%) of staff felt they could effectively balance their work and home commitments. After the trial, this number jumped to 78% - and the plus points didn’t stop there. Staff stress levels decreased by 7% across the board as a result, while stimulation, commitment and a sense of empowerment at work all improved significantly, with overall life satisfaction increasing by 5% points. As an added plus, workers were even shown to have more creativity – and were noticeably more “helpful” and “engaged”, too.

In short, it seems that workers can complete their work satisfactorily, or even better in some aspects, during a four-day week – and enjoy greater work-life balance and reduced stress.

Hmm. It’s certainly food for thought ahead of the bank holiday weekend.

In the meantime, we recommend showing this article to your boss, pronto. And, if she fails to jump on the four-day working week bandwagon, might we suggest you consider working for one of these innovative UK companies (all of which have adopted Sweden’s six-hour working day policy) instead?

Image: Artem Bali