Everyone knows that when you get ‘full time work’, it’s usually goodbye to your friends and family and hello to your new home (which is your desk). Although your new coworkers might be a little loopy, you better get used to it because you’re going to be seeing them for a minimum of 48 hours a week. This is the standard working week and it’s been that way for the last 80 years.
A new study that will be published in the March volume of Social Science and Medicine has found that longer work hours erode health. Researchers from the Australian National University found that the work limit should be taken down to 39 hours a week instead of the standard 48 hour week that everyone is aware of. This was found from a data analysis of 8000 working adults in Australia.
This 39 hour limit will make sure that employees have a healthy life, and working beyond this puts employees at risk of developing mental health problems. Professor Lyndall Strazdins, who was a co-author on this paper, had a message for working Australians and their managers.
“Australians need to dispel the widespread belief that people have to work long hours in order to do a good job. My message to their managers and our policy makers is to start a national debate on how long is too long.”
It seems that economists within Australia have already started that conversation in response to the journal article, with calls for stricter regulations on employers to make any real and lasting change to the working week within the workforce.
When it comes to maintaining the work life balance, there is a difference between the sexes as well that needs to be taken into consideration as well, with women doing far more unpaid caring work at home compared to men. Trying to maintain the issues with a healthy work life balance is felt more acutely by women, which was also something that was found in the study.
When these factors, such as what women do at home, were taken into account, their working week went down to 34 hours whereas a man’s working week went up to 47 hours a week.
There’s a lot to be taken into account if we were to change the whole working week. However, with studies like this one that’s bringing light to the imbalance between genders and what working hours would be mentally healthy for their employees, I feel like it’s the start of a conversation that is desperately trying to be heard.