We all know about the recommended amounts for things like getting enough sleep or working out, but what about the optimal amount of hours on the job? That’s exactly what a group of researchers asked in a recent study from the United Kingdom — and it turns out we might all be seriously overworking ourselves.
The study examined 70,000 residents over a span of nine years. Researchers tracked the changes in their work hours and how that affected their mental health and overall life satisfaction. Those who went from being unemployed to working eight hours a week or less saw their risk of mental health issues decreased by 30 percent. Working any more than that didn’t provide any more benefits.
No, the researchers weren’t looking for an excuse for us all to cut back on our daily grind. It was actually quite the opposite — with the rise in artificial intelligence technology, there’s a good chance more jobs will become automated. That means less jobs to go around, which could also mean a lot of unhappy people. It’s not about the money, but the feeling of confidence that comes with contributing to society. “If there is not enough for everybody who wants to work full-time, we will have to rethink current norms,” Dr. Daiga Kamerade, one the study’s authors, claimed. “This should include the redistribution of working hours, so everyone can get the mental health benefits of a job, even if that means we all work much shorter weeks.”
Of course, the quality of the job is important. Dr. Brendan Burchell, another author of the study, explained, “Jobs where employees are disrespected or subject to insecure or zero-hours contracts do not provide the same benefits to well-being.”
It’s unlikely that businesses will suddenly start offering drastically shorter work weeks, but the researchers can see the UK cutting back to four days a week at some point in the next decade. We certainly wouldn’t mind that trend jumping across the pond, too!
In the meantime, we can all try to make the most out of long weekends and vacation plans.