Research Says A 3-Day Work Week May Be Best For Those Over 40 Years Old
Do you ever wish you could work fewer hours per week?
Do you ever wish you could work fewer hours per week? Well, then you may want to consider it.
But how do you explain it to your boss? If you’re over 40, you can cite a study in the Melbourne Institute’s Working Paper Series. They found that a three-day work week may be the best way to keep employees over age 40 productive yet not burned out.
So There’s Proof That We Work Too Much?
In the study, researchers from Australia and Japan looked at how working hours affected cognitive abilities of 3,500 women and 3,000 men over 40 years old in Australia. The volunteer subjects had to do various cognitive tests, such as reciting sequences of numbers and reading words aloud.
“Our findings show that there is a non-linearity in the effect of working hours on cognitive functioning,” the research said. “For working hours up to around 25 hours a week, an increase in working hours has a positive impact on cognitive functioning. However, when working hours exceed 25 hours per week, an increase in working hours has a negative impact on cognition.”
Sounds good to us. And, interestingly enough, the findings were the same for men and women.
Does This Mean I Should Quit My Job?
However, if working 25 hours is not possible, what’s the next best thing — a 40-hour work week or not working at all? If you guessed the former, you’re correct, according the study’s findings. Our cognition performs better when working 40 hours a week than it does not working at all, so keep that in mind before you go quitting your job!
However, if we’re talking about working over 55 hours per week, that’s worse yet for cognitive functioning than not working at all.
“The degree of intellectual stimulation may depend on working hours,” said one of the researchers, Colin McKenzie, professor of economics at Keio University. “Work can be a double-edged sword, in that it can stimulate brain activity, but at the same time long working hours can cause fatigue and stress, which potentially damage cognitive functions.”
OK, overall, it sounds like the 25-hour work week is a win, and, in fact, other research points to the benefits of establishing a three-day weekend as the norm.
4-Day Work Weeks May Make Us Healthier
Most of us feel exuberant and refreshed after a three-day weekend, so it’s no surprise that a regular four-day work week would likely be healthier for us than a typical five-day work week.
Professor John Ashton, one of the UK’s leading doctors, called for the reduction of the British work week from five to four days, telling the Guardian in 2014 that “the stress that people are under, the pressure on time and sickness absence, [work-related] mental health is clearly a major issue.”
Japanese businesses are also attempting to address the workaholic culture that pervades their nation after clocking more than 100 hours of overtime in a month drove a Japanese ad agency employee to commit suicide.
Ashton noted that workers in the U.K. rarely even take a lunch hour, instead working through lunch. This is a trend that’s become the norm in the U.S. as well, with fewer than 20 percent of American workers leaving the office for a lunch break.
Ashton says that workers would see a broad range of benefits if they took an extra day for themselves, including more exercise, family time and lower blood pressure.
Companies that have made the switch to a shorter work week report noticeable improvements in the well-being and productivity of their employees.
Good For Workers And The Planet
But the benefits of a shorter work week go beyond reduced stress and better physical health for the individual. According to Alex Williams, a lecturer in sociology at City University, London, a four-day work week could have a big environmental impact as well.
Fewer working hours usually mean less energy is consumed, and we’d save an extra day of commuting back and forth each week — which could be a big win for the environment.