Finding workplace wellness beyond the confines of office walls

Shopify begins 2023 by putting an end to meetings – and that’s just one way to facility and preserve mental wellness in the modern workplace

Photo: iStock

For many, preserving mental wellness can often come at a hefty cost involving choosing between making their sanity and a paycheque. Late last year, Belgium put into motion its four-day workweek regulation and employees are now entitled to three-day weekends. Despite working fewer days per week, the programme mandates that employees will have to put in the same amount of hours to ensure their duties are fulfilled. Working 9.5 hours a day, four days a week, rather than spreading the hours across five days, gives employees more time to deal with their own mental wellness, on their own terms.

Following in the footsteps of Iceland and New Zealand, Belgium is now the third country to put this model to work. And while some employers question how this might affect productivity, others see this as a welcomed change that can cut back on some of the costs associated with running an office five days a week. 

Gone are the days where companies can impress their employees, and entice them to stay glued to the office for longer hours, by offering perks such as a stocked pantry and free lunches, having support animals or offering free massages.

As the world embraces working from home and a hybrid work schedule post-covid, more employers than ever are seeing the benefits of a compartmentalised work week and flexible scheduling on employees’ mental health. Between constant engagement online and endless meetings, more progressive companies are taking a stance and stopping these archaic practices to put their employees’ well-being first.

Also see: 3 Types of meditation to enter the New Year

With close to 7,000 employees worldwide, the online retail platform Shopify kicked off the new year by announcing they’ll no longer be hosting meetings involving more than two employees. Employees answered by promptly deleting distracting Slack group chats that serve their team meetings. Earlier last year, the company finalised a new policy that extends remote working and flex hours to all employees as a strategy to retain and attract talent. 

This move by a global company isn’t surprising in today’s climate. With disgruntled employees from Apple and Tesla expressing concern over excessive meetings, long hours, and rigid workplace arrangements, it’s become clear that employee wellness and satisfaction profoundly impact a company’s success. Reports suggest Tesla has a 25 per cent executive turnover rate, a staggering 10 per cent higher than the average corporation. Elon Musk’s notorious micro-management style has become a lesson for many CEOs on how not to lead.

All of this is in response to a new generation of the workforce that puts greater emphasis on personal happiness rather than material and financial success. According to athleisure activewear brand Lululemon’s 2022 Global Wellness Report, 44 per cent of the workforce sees flexible work hours and the option to work remotely as key considerations when taking on a job. 

In a 2022 interview, 4 Day Week Global summit’s CEO Joe O’Connor says the flex schedule ultimately benefits employers. He believes a shorter work week with shortened hours can encourage employees to think on their feet, be more creative and ultimately become more efficient. 

Also see: #legendchats: Recalibrating mental health to achieve peace, self-acceptance

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