What Is the Optimal Amount of Working Hours Per Week?

A University of Cambridge study found that, in terms of mental wellbeing, the optimal "employment dose” is one or two days a week.
A University of Cambridge study found that, in terms of mental wellbeing, the optimal "employment dose” is one or two days a week.

If we could prioritize mental wellbeing above everything else, we'd all be spending only one day a week at work, or maybe two. That insight about the optimal "employment dose" comes from researchers from the University of Cambridge, who studied the happiness of employees during the coronavirus lockdown.

They found that the simple act of being employed for one day a week provides as much satisfaction as putting in 40 hours a week. Interestingly, a single day on the job was much more beneficial than not working at all, which can be hard on a person's mental health.

"The traditional model, in which everyone works around 40 hours a week, was never based on how much work was good for people," Senhu Wang, co-author of a similar study, said. "Our research suggests micro-jobs provide the same psychological benefits as full-time jobs." Prof. Brendan Burchell led the Cambridge team, and said that there's no rationale for working 40 hours. It's simply what happened when people realized that the Industrial Revolution-era quota of 100-hour weeks was too much.

Working on taking it easy:

  • About 1 percent of U.S. employers allow their staff to take naps during the workday.

  • Approximately 1 million people take off work every day to ease the amount of stress they feel.

  • Some research suggests that healthy people should keep working until the age of 80.

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    • A University of Cambridge study found that, in terms of mental wellbeing, the optimal "employment dose” is one or two days a week.
      A University of Cambridge study found that, in terms of mental wellbeing, the optimal "employment dose” is one or two days a week.