When you’re leading a busy life, it can be easy to let happiness slip down your priority list.

Allowing yourself some downtime can sometimes feel like a luxury you can’t afford. But that shouldn’t be the case, and more people than ever are realising this and reassessing their priorities as a result of the pandemic.

A lot of people who have been working flexibly or remotely can testify to that. Many have gained back valuable hours previously wasted on travel and have found a better work life balance.

Now, as workplaces explore what the long-term future looks like, there’s an even bigger and bolder concept on the horizon for Scotland, and that’s the four-day working week. The Scottish Government is designing a £10m pilot to help companies explore the benefits of this model, with the belief it could help sustain more and better jobs and enhance wellbeing. It’s not a new idea. New Zealand trialled it and reported a 20 percent boost in productivity, and Iceland’s trial was deemed so successful that around 85% of its workforce have either moved to shorter hours or will soon be able to. Sweden saw mixed results. One trial saw productivity rise and dip across different departments, while a separate public healthcare trial was reportedly deemed unsustainable.

So clearly there are pros and cons.

Personally, I like that it promotes a workplace culture that is focused on outputs rather than inputs, which is a healthy approach. It also encourages more dedicated ‘focus time’ which has the potential to make people more productive. It could even help companies when it comes to recruitment. Despite one critic on Twitter claiming it would be a disaster for sectors facing labour shortages, I disagree. Offering a four-day week could be exactly what’s needed to attract employees, raise the profile of your brand and help differentiate you from competitors.

However, there are practical considerations that could prove tricky for employers. For example, if everyone wanted a Friday off (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t?) that’s clearly not going to work. I assume they’d also need to consider what happens to part-time staff on pro-rata salaries, because these latest proposals suggest the move to a four-day week would not come with a reduction in pay.

I’ve always been a huge supporter of initiatives that encourage a healthier work-life balance, but I’m on the fence about whether this is the right approach to get that end result. For the employee, it sounds rosy at first. But in reality, would it mean four frenetic days running around like a headless chicken just to get that extra day off? Would it be worth it?

Maybe instead of trying to compress the working week it would be more beneficial to slow down, reassess the way we prioritise, lose the bad habits that add stress to our day, and stop beating ourselves if we don’t meet arbitrary deadlines. For the employer, ask yourself if you really need a four-day week or if there are better things you can do to boost happiness and productivity. Personally, I think strong employee engagement is the real key. And I hate to think what would happen with engagement levels if staff were told that they had to go back to working five days if the trial was deemed unsustainable.

Either way, have a clear purpose and vision and communicate them well. Invest in wellbeing. Give staff an appropriate level of responsibility and autonomy. Invite feedback. Give praise. Be clear about progression opportunities.

A drastic and potentially irreversible move like a four-day week may not be necessary if you’re doing the above and doing them well.

Laura Gordon is a CEO coach and group chair with Vistage International, a global leadership development network for CEOs