• Hassina Obaidy, 31, is a product marketing manager based in Fremont, California.
  • Her employer started a 4-day workweek program last August to test how it'd work for the company.
  • Here's how Obaidy says it's improved her focus and creativity, as told to writer Robin Madell. 

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Hassina Obaidy, a 31-year-old product marketing manager who is based in Fremont, California. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I work as a product marketing manager for an online HR, compliance, and harassment company called Emtrain. Last August, my company implemented a four-day workweek pilot program as a new employee benefit, a way to retain talent, and also a way to offer increased flexibility and a better work-life balance.

I was a little nervous about meeting various deadlines, projects, and priorities, but I was also excited for free Fridays and an extra day off. 

During a traditional five-day work week, whether at my current company or a previous one, I often felt exhausted and started to experience burnout as I climbed up the ladder in my career. I attended more, longer meetings. I would push certain tasks off to Fridays, and by that time, I was totally done and impatiently waiting for 5 p.m. to hit. 

Going into the pandemic with a 5-day workweek was challenging

The burnout and fatigue really started for me when I began working from home and felt like I needed to be available at all times. A two-day weekend just wasn't enough for any personal errands, spending time with loved ones, and even taking time for myself. By Sunday, I didn't always feel ready or prepared to start the workweek strong and be the best that I can be at my job. The Sunday scaries were real.

So, when the announcement was made that Emtrain was piloting a four-day workweek, I was ecstatic and thankful. While the benefits outweigh the challenges, there was a learning curve in the way I had to manage my time and priorities. 

The first few weeks were a little challenging

I had to take a step back and really look at my priorities, time management, and deadlines differently. I work cross-functionally and with external stakeholders and partners, so I learned how to set expectations and boundaries. 

The biggest hurdle I had was managing and organizing Emtrain's first People Leader virtual conference, which at the time of starting the four-day workweek was just six weeks away. 

I was extremely proactive with organizing the conference by working within the marketing team to schedule out promotions; partnering with our leadership and thought leaders to refine the agenda, content, and guest speakers; and making sure that the conference took priority over other marketing projects. 

I was lucky enough to work with thought leaders who have a progressive mindset and applauded our pilot program. Since this was the very first conference we've ever hosted, I still worked on Fridays for a few short weeks, but I didn't have to attend or lead any calls.

Emtrain's leadership team and managers did a phenomenal job at guiding us through a four-day workweek, teaching us how to be more productive, advising everyone to have 25-minute meetings instead of 30 minutes, and simply opening their doors for any questions and feedback. As a data-driven company, they shared internal data with everyone on feedback, productivity ratings, and whether or not the four-day week impacted our clients — which it didn't. 

With a 4-day week, I'm way more focused and productive than I used to be

I now manage the "smaller" tasks that I used to push off to Fridays more responsibly and am more accountable. Some days I work longer hours and other days, I log off at a reasonable time.

Having three days off has ignited my creative side. I come back on Mondays with more ideas, constructive feedback, and the ability to think things through instead of jumping into projects immediately. 

On free Fridays, the opportunities are endless

I start my mornings very slowly by catching up on errands and personal appointments. I've spent more time reading books, focusing on my mental and physical health, cleaning my house, and sleeping in. I also explore new cafes and local shops and often go to coffee shops to spend time reading.       

The extra day has also allowed me to give more of my time to loved ones

I live at home with my mom who sometimes needs certain care and support. Having the free day helps me focus more on that responsibility whether it's taking her to doctor's appointments, helping with errands, or managing her health and diet. 

I've also used my open Fridays to spend more quality time with my 3-year-old nephew and see friends during their lunch break, and it's helped me connect with them more and build better relationships. I still take reasonable vacation time without feeling guilty. And when Ramadan comes around in April, I know the three days off will make the greatest difference.

Of course, there are times when I check my email and do a little work on my day off — I'm in marketing after all

But I don't feel the need or pressure to respond right away or get the task done that day. Come Sunday evening, I feel relaxed and ready to start off my workweek strong. 

All in all, the four-day workweek has tremendously helped my mental health and overall stress and anxiety. I focus a lot on myself and what brings me more peace, which I think a lot of people can forget to do in the hustle culture society that we work in. It really does make a huge difference in the work we do when we take care of ourselves, and the four-day workweek has empowered me to do just that. 

Read the original article on Business Insider