You should only be working for eight hours a week – here’s why

You should only be working for eight hours a week – here’s why
Shorter working hours could benefit health. (Photo: Shutterstock)

If you feel like your nine to five routine is bad for your health, you might just be right, according to new research.

A study has found that in order to stay healthy you should only be working for eight hours (or one day) per week.

Researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Salford say that is the most “effective dose” of work in order to reap the mental health benefits of paid work.

Is any work good for my health?

The results of the study indicated the risk of mental health problems drops by 30 per cent when people move from unemployment into paid work of eight hours or less per week. However, no evidence was found that suggested that working for any longer than that benefited individuals in terms of their mental health.

The study was undertaken in order to establish the ideal amount of work a person should do each week for their wellbeing.

The research is linked to the rise of automation, which could see human hours being reduced in the future. This would mean that the hours of work needed to be done by humans would need to be redistributed throughout the population.

The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Social Science And Medicine, examined how changes in working hours were linked to mental health and life satisfaction in more than 70,000 UK residents between 2009 and 2018.

The also took into account the subjects’ age, health, household income and whether or not people had children.

“We have effective dosage guides for everything from Vitamin C to hours of sleep in order to help us feel better, but this is the first time the question has been asked of paid work,” said study co-author Dr Brendan Burchell, a sociologist from Cambridge University.

“We know unemployment is often detrimental to people’s well-being, negatively affecting identity, status, time use, and sense of collective purpose.

“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.”

Four day week could be possible ‘within a decade’

The reduction of working hours is something that is often discussed at the moment. In some countries, like Sweden, the norm is to work shorter hours than in the UK.

And Dr Burchell has said that if companies were to put money into reducing working hours rather than paying out bonuses, the working week could be reduced to four days within a decade.

Dr Jed Boardman, lead for social inclusion at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, added, “We know that unemployment is bad for mental health and well-being, and that being in work can be good for you.

“But being in jobs with low levels of control, high demands and complexity, job insecurity, and unfair pay can be as bad for a person’s mental health as unemployment.

“This high-quality study reinforces what we already know, but suggests that reduction of working hours can have benefits for people’s mental health and well-being.

“If this is to be adopted in policy then some caution is required to ensure that any reduction in hours is adopted equally across the workforce and that the psychosocial quality of the working environment is maintained.”