Let’s be honest. No one likes five-day work weeks. However, responsibilities are a driving factor for us to work every day. If you’re over the age of 40, then scientists say that you should definitely avoid working five days a week. According to a report published in the Melbourne Institute Worker Paper, those over the age of 40 are more productive when they work an average of three days a week or less. So, if you’re someone who is looking for a reason to work less, science has your back.
The study conducted by economic researchers found that workers aged over 40 perform at their best if they work three days a week.
The study published in 2016, in the Melbourne Institute Worker Paper series, was done by The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research at the University of Melbourne. In order to come to the conclusion, experts analyzed the work habits of 3,500 women and 3,000 men through a series of cognitive tests.
The subjects were asked to match letters and numbers under time pressure, reading aloud, and reciting lists of numbers backwards. They then analyzed their work habits, memory, executive reasoning, and abstract reasoning. As HuffPost explained, the participants’ cognitive performance improved as the researchers increased their working hours up to 25 hours. However, after 25 hours, the researchers found that performance began to decline in both the male and female volunteers.
Researchers also factored quality of life, family structures, economic well-being, and employment of the participants during the study.
One of the three authors, Professor Colin McKenzie from Keio University, told the Times: “Many countries are going to raise their retirement ages by delaying the age at which people are eligible to start receiving pension benefits. This means that more people continue to work in the later stages of their life.”
“The degree of intellectual stimulation may depend on working hours. 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.”
“We point out that differences in working hours are important for maintaining cognitive functioning in middle-aged and elderly adults. This means that, in middle and older age, working part-time could be effective in maintaining cognitive ability.”
With all the subjects in the study, researchers observed an overall cognitive performance increase until people hit the 25-hour mark, and at this point, the scores on the cognitive tests started dropping due to stress and fatigue.
The study says:
“These results indicate that, for both males and females, the magnitude of the positive impact of working hours on their cognitive ability is decreasing until working hours reaches a threshold, and above that, further increases in working hours have a negative impact on their cognitive functioning…Then, where is the threshold?
In other words, when does the impact of working hours on cognitive ability change from being positive to negative?…
Using the test scores of memory span and cerebral dysfunction for the respondents, it is found that working hours up to 25–30 hours per week have a positive impact on cognition for males depending on the measure and up to 22–27 hours for females…Our study highlights that too much work can have adverse effects on cognitive functioning.”
The research comes amid moves to edge the British state pension age closer to 70. Geraint Johnes, an economics professor at Lancaster University Management School, says:
“What the authors find is that cognitive functioning improves up to the point at which workers work 25 hours a week and declines thereafter. Actually, at first the decline is very marginal, and there is not much of an effect as working hours rise to 35 hours per week. Beyond 40 hours per week, the decline is much more rapid.”
So, in conclusion, experts suggest that we need to find the right balance between work and life. If we keep up with the modern work-week, it could cause both physical and mental health issues. Some of the most common symptoms of overworking are depression, fatigue, lack of sleep, body pain, trouble focusing in both work and personal life.