“The way we all work is going to change,” Richard Branson wrote in a recent blog post. “One of the biggest barriers to employment in the coming years will be the rise of technology. But there is a middle ground to be found, which will end the 9-to-5.”
The entrepreneur, philanthropist, and founder of Virgin has been vocal in the past about the importance of working smarter, instead of toiling for ever longer hours. In his recent post, he reiterated the need for our society to adapt with the changing times, and to transform the way we view a traditional workday.
According to Branson, the rise of progressing technologies will drive industries forward while reducing the need for on-site manpower in the workplace. “Ideas such as driverless cars and more advanced drones are becoming a reality,” he writes. “Machines will be used for more and more jobs in the future.”
Although the idea of a society with fewer jobs may sound like a negative concept for those individuals seeking work, Branson says it could actually be beneficial in terms of creating a healthier amount of time spent at our workplace. He adds that leaders should take the opportunity to shift the way we think about the traditional work week. “The idea of working five days a week with two day weekends and a few weeks of holiday each year has become ingrained in society,” Branson writes. “Choice can empower people to make good decisions and feel positive about their workplace… If we all work smarter, we won’t have to work longer.”
Branson also points out that organizational changes are necessary in order to make this shift a reality. “If governments and businesses are clever, the advance of technology…. could help accelerate the marketplace to much smarter working practices. If it works for individuals and works for businesses, everyone would want to spend more time with their loved ones, more time exploring their passions, more time seeing the world outside of an office.”
Non-traditional workweek structures are slowly being adopted by some governments internationally, but many corporate environments still have yet to adapt to Branson’s approach. “We’d need to see some of these ideas come more into the mainstream and be embraced by more moderate thought leaders,” Chris Ferguson, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Stetson University tells Thrive Global.
While the four-day work week may not be the norm in the mainstream workplace just yet, it is possible to work smarter without burning out from long hours at the office. Here are three tips to implement into your own work practices:
“One challenge with new technology is that it blurs the separation between us and our work,” Ferguson says. To avoid the symptoms of burnout that can come from that lack of separation, Ferguson suggests establishing a separation between work time and personal time. “Have accounts, like email, dedicated specifically for work, and only look at those during work hours, not when you’re home with family,” he suggests.
Don’t be afraid to take time off
Technology comes with a culture of always being “on,” which, over time, can become overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. While it can be difficult to power off, sometimes a tech-free vacation is necessary for your mental well-being. The future might bring “less need for person-input in many tasks,” but Ferguson notes that until that day arrives, it’s important to take the time you need to unplug and recharge.
Implement your own rituals
Even if you work in a traditional 9-5, you can still thrive in your career without burning out at your desk. Making the effort to stay present and be mindful of your time can go a long way during the work week, whether that means experimenting with walking meetings, eating lunch away from your desk, or even taking a meditation break to recenter yourself. Taking a few minutes to yourself will help you work better in the long run, so it’s important to give yourself the permission to do what works for you.
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