A California congressman has proposed the four-day workweek bill. It would reduce the standard workweek to four days instead of five. While this bill has the potential to impact workers everywhere, it could have particular benefits for black women in the workplace. It’s no secret that black women have always struggled with finding the ideal work-life balance. Could this four-day workweek be the answer to improved mental health for Black women?
Licensed marriage and family therapist Wendy Whitmore believes that black women are often running on an empty tank due to living in survival mode.
“I encourage Black women to prioritize their emotional well-being,” Whitmore said. “To prioritize and respect when their mind, body, soul, and spirit need to be at rest.”
Four-Day Workweek Bill
Congressman Mark Takano introduced the workweek bill in the U.S. House of Representatives in March 2022. The bill proposes reducing the standard workweek from 40 to 32 hours. Moreover, the bill would require employers to pay overtime for any hours worked beyond 32 in a week. This allows employees to work four, eight-hour days instead of five.
Historically, Black women have been overrepresented in low-paying, service-oriented jobs that require long hours and offer few benefits. These jobs are often physically and emotionally taxing, and many black women work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Additionally, Black women often face systemic barriers in the workplace that limit their advancement opportunities and pay.
Benefits Of The Bill
The implementation of a four-day work week could provide Black women with more time for rest and self-care. Allowing them to recharge and better manage their overall well-being. The bill could also create new opportunities for black women to pursue education and training that will improve their careers. The additional day off could also allow Black women the free time to tend to their health in all aspects.
“The four-day workweek bill will force black women to restructure their relationship with work and the way they spend their time,” Wendy said. “It will also give them the opportunity to participate in therapeutic wellness services and go to their yearly & quarterly exams!”
Overall, this bill has the potential to positively impact the lives of many black women. Aside from professional training, black women will be able to use this extra time to prioritize their health and well-being.
21Ninety sat down with Whitmore to further discuss the work-life balance, the potential benefits of the 4-day workweek bill, and how to recognize workplace burnout and anxiety.
Let’s Talk To A Therapist
21Ninety: Please share with us a little about how you started your journey to become a therapist and your area of specialization.
Wendy Whitmore: It was a very scary thing when I decided to become a Womanpreneur in 2013. I had so many reservations and doubts, yet I come from a family of Womanpreneurs and entrepreneurs.
On April 30, 2013, Truth Healing & Evolution Counseling Services was born. I am blessed that my dad Aaron Hodges JR. paid my office rent for a year. I have been in business for myself for 10 years now! It is because of my village that I opened the WLW HEALING HOUSE. A full-scale wellness center where my private practice Truth Healing & Evolution Counseling Services provides traditional and unconventional therapeutic services.
WLW HEALING HOUSE is a place of healing for the Spirit, Soul, Mind & Body. Human beings need a space where they can unapologetically focus on everything SelfCare. In this space, we offer services and experiences curated to focus on Spirit Care, Soul Care, Loving THE Mind & Body Care. And we are working to normalize the practice of RADICAL SelfCare.
21N: As a therapist, how much time do you spend working through work-related trauma or anxiety with your clients?
WW: So many of my clients struggle with prioritizing their well-being while striving to be successful in their chosen professions. It is almost as if once you get to a certain tax bracket or are working toward a certain tax bracket. You feel the need to compromise your well-being. For example, when we face overwhelming challenges at work and believe we lack sufficient support to tackle them, we may experience feelings of rejection and abandonment. Another example is when we feel that the task is unrealistic, we find ourselves faced with the dilemma of sacrificing our well-being or looking like a failure.
21N: What can employees and professionals do to maintain a good work-life balance while working in a stressful environment?
1) Seek therapy and stay with it
2) Move your Body every day: walk your dog, dance, roller skate, jog, etc…
3) Take mental health days when needed, use that PTO & Sick time
4) Unplug at the end of your work day and pick it up again during work hours
5) Delegate your responsibilities at work, utilize your team
6) Delegate your responsibilities at home, hire help as your budget allows for it
7) Take naps and REST without guilt
8) Always take your breaks and lunches when working
21N: Do you think a four-day workweek will benefit the mental health of employees and employers? Why or why not?
WW: Absolutely! Fifteen years ago at the age of 28, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. The quality of my life was diminishing fast. Being a wife, mother, and therapist, I spent most of my time serving others. In 2016 I decided to implement the four-day workweek and no longer see clients on Fridays. What a difference in my life this made. I saw a huge shift in how my health improved mentally, emotionally, and physically. My chronic illness became much more manageable. My marriage improved and my relationships with my heartbeats, parents, and friends did as well.
What are some effects that working in a bad work environment can have on your mental health?
WW: A bad work environment can lead to high levels of stress, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and feelings of burnout. You can also experience feeling unmotivated causing a decrease in your productivity. You may find that it is difficult to effectively communicate your feelings with co-workers and loved ones alike. A bad work environment can also affect your sleep, eating habits, and energy levels. It will begin to diminish your desire to do the things you once enjoyed.
21N: Do you think there is a deep-rooted issue that causes black women to struggle to find a balance between life and work?
WW: Absolutely! As Black women, we operate in the survive-to-thrive mode. This is why we often find ourselves serving from a near-empty tank. Black women who came before us had to operate this way to create the tables at which we currently have a seat. We must honor those that came before us by leaning into the act of Self Preservation and Radical Rest. Audre Lorde said it best when she stated that caring for ourselves is not self-indulgence. Finding balance is a myth! You can only attempt to balance things for so long before you become discouraged. The juggling of balance is overwhelming. I encourage Black women to prioritize their emotional well-being. To prioritize and respect when their mind, body, soul, and spirit need to be at rest.
21N: What positive effects do you think the four-day workweek bill will have on black women in the workforce?
WW: So many Black women still operate in the survive-to-thrive mode! The four-day workweek bill will force them to restructure their relationship with work and how they spend their time. It will also give them the opportunity to participate in therapeutic wellness services and go to their yearly & quarterly exams. No more waiting for a day off to take care of you. Black women will have the luxury of time and will no longer need to cram these services into their lunch breaks with the hope of completing them within a short period. This is something that many feel they do not have enough of.
21N:As a black business owner and CEO what are some of the things you’ve struggled with while developing and maintaining your practice?
WW: In the past, I have struggled with prioritizing my emotional well-being and allowing my mind, body, and spirit to be at rest. One of the most difficult things to do is break the cycle of operating in survival mode. I’ve also struggled with not feeling guilty and shaming myself when I do rest. Maintaining healthy positive thoughts and not allowing my mind to wander into survival thoughts have also been a factor.
21N: As a licensed therapist, what kind of resources and support do you think black women need from employers to thrive in their professional environment?
1. Promote Mental Health Awareness in the Office
2. Offer Flexible Scheduling
3. Address Workplace Stressors
4. Evaluate Benefits Offerings To Ensure Mental Health Coverage is Included
5. Provide Monthly Mental Health Training for Managers, Supervisors and Employees
6. Understand how mental health impacts employees
7. Include and/or Establish an employee assistance program (EAP)
8. Use communication to reduce stigma and increase access to mental health resources
9. Promote well-being
21N: If the bill passes, how would you recommend professional Black women everywhere to use the additional time?
WW: I would advise Black women to think about the things that make their heart smile and fills them with joy. After that carve-out time weekly to do those things. I would also encourage and advise Black women to curate their “Simplistic SelfCare Plan.” Developing this will allow them to continue to prioritize their emotional well-being, by reshaping how they spend their time.
These are the four questions they need to ask themselves to curate their “Simplistic SelfCare Plan”
- How do I start my day slower?
- What is my MidDay Calm?
- What is my Evening Calm
- How do I end my day?
This article has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.