Study says people over 40 could excel in a three-day workweek

It’s Monday, which means there is a good chance you are struggling to be productive right now and/or keep your eyes open. Tomorrow will be a little better, but not much, and Wednesday will be spent planning your weekend. Then by the time Friday rolls around, you will be totally checked out so the only day you probably really got any work done is Thursday. OK, this is an exaggeration but you get it. Well, good news if you are over 40-years-old. According to a new study, a three-day workweek could be in your future.

The study, published in the Melbourne Institute Worker Paper series, followed 3,000 male and 3,500 female volunteers. The researchers concluded that a 25-hour workweek is the optimal amount of time for workers over 40 to be successfully productive, as it is during this time period that cognitive functioning hits its peak.

“For working hours up to around 25 hours a week, an increase in working hours has a positive impact on cognitive functioning. However, when working hours exceed 25 hours per week, an increase in working hours has a negative impact on cognition,” the researchers wrote.

The cognitive functioning tests included having the subjects read text backward, read words aloud, and match numbers and letters under time pressure.

Workers are pushing back their retirements

With more countries pushing back the retirement age, this is definitely something interesting to consider. In the U.S. the average age of retirement is 66 years old. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects about 42 million workers in the labor force will be age 55 and older by 2026.

“Many countries are going to raise their retirement ages by delaying the age at which people are eligible to start receiving pension benefits. This means that more people continue to work in the later stages of their life,” study co-author and Keio University professor Colin McKenzie told The Times. “The degree of intellectual stimulation may depend on working hours. Work can be a double-edged sword, in that it can stimulate brain activity, but at the same time long working hours can cause fatigue and stress, which potentially damage cognitive functions.”

Recently a company in New Zealand called Perpetual Guardian tested out a four-day workweek for two months and had very positive results. They found that their 240 employees reported greater productivity, as well as work-life balance, and experienced less stress. With more studies like this coming out a shorter workweek may come sooner rather than later.