Optimum Hours Contract

Work is good for you — but only one day a week, scientists say, Cnbc.com, 19 June 2019, Chloe Taylor

The Ultimate Work/Life Balance

“Working eight hours a week is the “recommended dose” for optimum mental wellbeing, British scientists claim. In a study published Tuesday, researchers from the University of Cambridge and the University of Salford set out to find a working pattern that would be most beneficial to employees’ mental health. It was conducted on the premise that the rise of automation would force companies to “rethink current norms” around working hours. The project examined the link between working hours, mental health and life satisfaction in more than 71,000 working-age people in the U.K. over a nine-year period. Participants were asked about issues including anxiety and sleep problems to gauge the state of their mental health.”

Through the WI Lens

In an era when the expectation is growing that AI and automation will soon be able to carry out much of the work done by people there’s increasing interest in how human work patterns will evolve. The research reported on here looked at this through the lens of mental wellbeing, and found that moving from not working to working for up to eight hours a week reduces the risk of mental health problems by an average of 30 per cent. After that, there’s no further gain, and it may well be conjectured that as the hours pile up, mental wellbeing would start to decrease. For most employers there’s little immediate prospect of being able to cut the working week so radically. But the simple lesson is that when it comes to work, less can be more. The productivity gains of automation should be re-invested in people’s lives, and in the meantime, the challenge is to make the longer hours worked by most employees an experience that boosts their wellbeing rather than becoming a source of stress and mental illness.


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