No one would complain if they were required to work 3 days a week for full payment at a place of business. In North America’s corporate culture, this idea is a joke for both owners and workers at that business. However, employers don’t realize that psychological research was conducted proving that people can be more productive working less than five days per week.
The University of Melbourne in Australia conducted this study in 2016 that was focused on the time spent at a job alongside the effects on the cognitive function of people over the ages of 40. Three tests were administered by researchers demonstrating cognitive ability comparing it to the hours spent working:
- Backward Digit Span which reads a single string of numbers listed sequentially then repeat the same numbers backward.
- Symbol Digit Modalities which substitutes numbers for geometric figures.
- The short form of the 25-item version of the National Adult Reading Test which is an inventory that estimates intellectual ability.
Eighty percent of the people participating in the study were employed out of home for 35 hours or more per week. The highest productivity of the workers from the cognition testing was when they were working 25 hours per week. The results fell in proportion to the number of working hours over the number. Almost fifty-five percent of the 6500 participants in the study were female workers but the results had no difference between the sexes.
The study’s object was determining the validity of the idea “use it or lose it” which means that if we aren’t socially and intellectually engaged at a job the decline of cognitive function as we get older. The researchers of the project concluded that:
“Work can be a double-edged sword, in that it can stimulate brain activity, but at the same time, long working hours and certain types of tasks can cause fatigue and stress which potentially damage cognitive functions. Thus, the degree of intellectual stimulation of work may depend on the required task and working hours, that is, the quality and the quantity of work.”
With this, the idea becomes “use it too much and lose it.”
Over the last century, the life expectancy of humans has increased and many countries want to raise the age of retirement. Even though this is good for Americans who want to work past the age of 65, however, for the people who want to retire, they will not get their full pension benefits until later. North America’s workers retire much later than the workers in China, Russia, Japan, and Australia.
Mexicans top the list of annual hours worked in North America. Only 9 of all the industrialized countries in the world have an average of annual working hours higher than the U.S. Forty hours of work per week is what one typical week with no time for anything else.
Throughout history, working 40 hours per week was a big reduction for manufacturers who at the turn of the 20th century were working 100 hours. However, the 5 days, 40-hour workweek became a standard for all industries in the U.S. in the first 4 decades.
It’s crucial to remember that this was when the world’s population was smaller than today’s, war economies required many people to work and many people were overseas, and because unemployment was a concern after 1929, adding more people to work for fewer hours is more socially and economically desirable. However, not a single of the last-mentioned economic factors is valid for North America currently.
People who work at management level are required to work over 40 hours per week with no additional pay. Across the industries, telecommuting became popular and it required workers to work outside of business hours
If you work full-time with almost or no breaks for 45 years or plus, time will take its toll. People get over-worked and get health problems such as chronic stress, heart disease, and cancer. Additionally, workplace stress can make you age faster.
Here are some alarming signs to watch for if you’re over-working.
- Usage of drugs and alcohol for relaxation.
- No results are shown for working long hours.
- Feeling of fatigue throughout the day because not enough sleep.
- Feeling of sadness, anxiety, or depression.
- Regular overtime work.
- Body aches and strained or sore eyes.
- Not forging interpersonal relationships.
Additionally, people can die from over-working. Serious illnesses and eroded mental health can happen for someone that’s over-worked chronically.
To attract and keep skilled employees, employers become more flexible with scheduling working hours.
Researchers have shown that small changes can give a lot of benefits to workers. Some of these changes are:
- Starting work at a suitable time (like starting at 10:00 a.m.)
- Shortening the workweek by working more hours per day for fewer days.
- Outside of business hours, employers in France cannot email workers legally.
- In New Zealand, an estate management firm tested moving to a 4-day working week and found that productivity was almost as the one from a 5-day week.
- A 6-hour workday can increase productivity and effectiveness compared to an 8-hour workday, however, this depends on the workforce and industry.
- Instead of paying for overtime, award time off.
- Increase the number of given vacation days. Americans are given the least amount of vacation days.
The consciousness of your daily habits and health is crucial if you work full time for most of your adult life. Do things you enjoy outside of work with the people you care about and make sure you talk to your boss of the things mentioned above next time you’re negotiating.