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Why billionaire Richard Branson believes everyone could benefit from a shorter workweek

Sir Richard Branson
Mario Tama | Getty Images
Sir Richard Branson

It may seem like the standard recipe for professional success depends on long hours in the office and little time away from your phone and emails.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American works 44 hours per week, or 8.8 hours per day. When it comes to vacation, a survey by Project: Time Off found that 54 percent of more than 7,000 American employees ended 2016 with unused vacation time.

While hard work is certainly the key to success, billionaire Richard Branson maintains that there is value in taking time away from the office to unplug and decompress. In a recent blog post, the entrepreneur explains why a three or four day work week can actually be beneficial to the future workforce.

Sir Richard Branson.
Cameron Costa | CNBC
Sir Richard Branson.

"The idea of working five days a week with two-day weekends and a few weeks of annual holiday is just something people accept," he writes. "For some reason, it is considered set in stone by most companies. There is no reason this can't change. In fact, it would benefit everyone if it did."

Branson says one way to achieve this shorter work week is to look at how technology and innovations can actually improve the workforce by positively impacting our work load.

"On the face of it, this sounds like bad news for people," he writes. "However, if governments and businesses are clever, the advance of technology could actually be really positive for people all over the world. It could help accelerate the marketplace to much smarter working practices."

At his own company, Virgin Management, Branson explains how they've embraced a flexible work schedule where people have options on how, when and where they work. He says with the progression of technology, he believes this flexibility will also become more of a common practice in the future.

"Many people out there would love three-day or even four-day weekends," he writes. "There are many people out there who would want to job share, and would love longer holidays. Everyone would welcome more time to spend with their loved ones, more time to get fit and healthy, more time to explore the world."

Sir Richard Branson speaking at the Innovation Summit in Brooklyn, New York on July 14, 2017.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Sir Richard Branson speaking at the Innovation Summit in Brooklyn, New York on July 14, 2017.

He adds, "By working more efficiently, there is no reason why people can't work less hours and be equally – if not more – effective."

One CEO who has already adopted Branson's idea of a shorter workweek is Basecamp CEO Jason Fried.

During the months of May through September, Fried enforces a strict 32-hour workweek where employees work only four days a week. Outside of the summer months, he sticks to a 40-hour work week to ensure that his staff does not experience excessive burnout or become overwhelmed by stress.

"People are always surprised by that," he tells CNBC Make It, "and I tell them you can get plenty of stuff done in 32 and 40 hours if you cut out all the stuff that's taking up your time."

With limited meetings and plenty of room to plan out your own work day, Basecamp's customer support team lead, Chase Clemons, says the shorter workweek has actually helped him to do his best work.

"Thirty-two hours forces us to prioritize what we work on," says Clemons. "It's not about working faster, but rather working smarter."

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