New research suggests that when companies cut back on the hours their employees work, workers aren’t only happier, but more productive.
Now, a new study published in the journal Social Science and Medicine has actually identified the exact number of work hours for better mental health.
The good news is it’s far less than 40 hours – but it’s definitely more than zero (sorry everyone).
Researchers at the University of Cambridge examined the effect of the amount of hours participants worked during the week on their mental health, including their quality of sleep and anxiety levels. Examining the data from the 70,000 participants between the ages of 16 and 64, the researchers found that going from unemployment or being a stay-at-home parent to working eight hours a week reduced mental health issues by 30 per cent.
The team also found that men reported a 30 per cent increase in life satisfaction when working the suggested eight hours. With women, it took 20 hours for them to report similar results.
“We know unemployment is often detrimental to people’s well-being, negatively affecting identity, status, time use, and sense of collective purpose,” Dr. Brendan Burchell, a University of Cambridge sociologist and co-author of the study, said in a press release. “We now have some idea of just how much paid work is needed to get the psychosocial benefits of employment—and it’s not that much at all.”
With growing concerns about a rise of unemployment due to advances in technology, Daiga Kamerāde, a study researcher from Salford University, said that though “big data and robotics replace much of the paid work currently done by humans … if there is not enough for everybody who wants to work full-time, we will have to rethink current norms.”
She recommends we look into redistributing work hours, so everyone can benefit from the mental health upsides of having a job, “even if that means we all work much shorter weeks.”
University of Cambridge sociologist and study co-author Senhu Wang said he believes that “the traditional model, in which everyone works around 40 hours a week, was never based on how much work was good for people.”
So, if we focused on reducing work hours instead of increasing pay, he says, “the normal working week could be four days within a decade.”
We can only hope, Dr. Wang.
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