A study that was published in the journal Social Science and Medicine found that working as a little as eight hours per week was enough to generate the psychological benefits of labour.
Working more not necessarily better
The aim of the study was to find how changes in the number of hours worked affected people's mental health over time inquiring specifically if a maximum or minimum existed for these psychological benefits to manifest.
These results only back up evidence that work weeks should be shortened in order to promote better mental health and–as a twofold benefit– increase productivity. Author and a sociologist at the University of Salford in England, Daiga Kamerade said:
It is like taking Vitamin C - we all need a certain dose, but taking it more than necessary does not bring any additional health benefits, and taking overly large amounts can actually have a harmful effect.
The paper's findings go against the widely shared idea that the standard work week should be around 40 hours in a single week. It also argues that working eight hours per week generated the exact same amount of wellbeing benefits tied to employment as one would if they were to work up to 48 every week. The team behind the research explained that:
This study found that even a small number of working hours (between one and 8 h a week) generates significant mental health and well-being benefits for previously unemployed or economically inactive individuals.
The findings suggest there is no single optimum number of working hours at which well-being and mental health are at their highest - for most groups of workers there was little variation in wellbeing between the lowest (1-8 h) through to the highest (44-48 h) category of working hours
An option already being considered elsewhere
As it stands currently with how the pandemic has changed the way we go about working, many companies and governments are looking for ways to adapt to the changing times.
Spain and Japan, for instance, are looking to trial shorter working weeks to allow their citizens to thrive in other aspects of their lives.