Over 40? Don’t Work More Than 25 Hours a Week

Have you heard about the recent study released by the University of Melbourne’s Neuroscience Institute?  In their Applied Economic and Social Research study, they looked at the optimal number of hours a week an employee should work.  Their findings were surprising, to say the least.  Research showed that for every hour you work up to 25 hours a week, your cognitive function steadily increases.  Any hours worked above that threshold sees a decline in cognitive function.  They also say that workers over 40 who work more than 25 hours a week have a harder time recovering from any loss in cognitive function.

If this is true, you can only start imagining the implications.  When you think about the employees that are the decision makers in an organization, it is typically people over 40 years old who work more than 40 hours per week.  In fact, many work 50- 60+ hours a week.  What does it mean when you have your leaders losing cognitive function, yet making major strategic decisions?  Is this something we should worry about?  Additionally, when you think of the traditional 8 hour workday, there are many employees that waste several hours a day at work, so are they already working 25 hours per week?

In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think this study will make anything change overnight.  However, it does give food for thought as we look to ways of working smarter and more collaboratively.  Some questions that come to mind:

  • Would providing a more collaborative workplace be able to support employees working fewer hours?
  • Are there certain times of day where decision-making is optimal?  If so, could concentrating work hours around those times lead to being able to work fewer hours?
  • Are there process changes that can be made to better support employees working PT hours?
  • If workplace changes were made, would employees even agree to work fewer hours?  Would this mean less pay, or more productivity in fewer hours?
  • What are the cost savings associated with more PT workers?
  • Do these findings better support the claim that by 2020, as many as 40%- 50% of jobs will be held by contingent workers?

Like many research studies, there are more questions than answers.  The next thing we know, researchers will be telling us to drink at work.  Oh wait, they already have.  At any rate, it’s fun to think about all the implications.  What do you think?  Would working fewer hours be good for you?  For your organization?  I welcome you to tell me what you think in the comments.