Why Experts Suggest That People Over 40 Should Only Work 3 Days a Week

The typical work week in America is Monday through Friday, about 40 hours a week. On top of that, many Americans work overtime and have a long commute to and from work.

This schedule doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for family, hobbies and other pastimes. As the saying goes, “All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy.” But, at what point exactly do we start really feeling burnt out from work?

What if we told you there was a study that concluded that working 40 hours a week is a bad idea? Not only does such a study exist, but it even concludes that working so many hours results in poor worker performance and that it’s better to work only 25-30 hours per week.

In 2016, there was a study published in the Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series that examined “the impact of working hours on the cognitive ability of people living in Australia aged 40 years and older.”

This study was conducted by The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research at the University of Melbourne. There were 3,500 women and 3,000 men who participated in the study by taking a series of cognitive tests. These tests included doing things like reading words out loud, reciting numbers backwards and matching letters and numbers in a limited period of time.

Researchers studied the performance of the participants to determine at what point their cognitive abilities started to decline, and the results definitely support the idea of a 3-day workweek. In fact, working longer than 25-30 hours for men or 22-27 hours for women resulted in a decline in their performance.

As it says in the study, “These results indicate that, for both males and females, the magnitude of the positive impact of working hours on their cognitive ability is decreasing until working hours reaches a threshold, and above that, further increases in working hours have a negative impact on their cognitive functioning…Then, where is the threshold? In other word, when does the impact of working hours on cognitive ability change from being positive to negative?…Using the test scores of memory span and cerebral dysfunction for the respondents, it is found that working hours up to 25–30 hours per week have a positive impact on cognition for males depending on the measure and up to 22–27 hours for females…Our study highlights that too much work can have adverse effects on cognitive functioning.”

Feel free to print out the paragraph above and show it to your boss, but it most likely won’t result in an immediate change to a 3-day work week. (Let us know if it does though!)

While many Americans don’t have the luxury of working only three days a week, with this study in mind, you might want to rethink working overtime or picking up an extra shift. Your work will most likely suffer if you’re burnt out.

And, if you do have the luxury, or if you’re self-employed, you might want to seriously consider working part-time, whether that’s 8 hours a day 3 days a week or 5 hours a day 5 days a week. The key is to try not to work more than about 25 hours a week.

How many hours a week do you work? Do you like the idea of a 3-day work week?