If you loathe your long work week, rejoice: science has your back. A new study concluded that working more than 30 hours per week has a negative impact on cognitive functions, like reading and memory.
The study, which was published by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, is based on a survey of Australian workers that includes respondents’ performances on three exercises that measure cognitive ability. They test memory span, divided attention, visual scanning, motor speed, reading and crystallized intelligence. Researchers reviewed the results of nearly 6,500 respondents — 2,965 men and 3,502 women — ages 40 and older and analyzed how their working hours related to their cognitive ability scores.
The analysis revealed a work-week sweet spot, of sorts. Working between 25 and 30 hours per week can “have a positive impact on cognition for males,” the report says, and for women, that ideal range is 22 to 27 hours per week.
“After that, working hours have a negative impact on cognitive functioning,” the report says. “This indicates that the differences in working hours is an important factor for maintaining cognitive functioning in middle and older adults.” The researchers noted that the differences between men and women’s working hours are not statistically significant.
Assuming employers want a workforce made up of sharp, mentally productive human beings, it would make sense to instate a 25- or 30-hour work week, right? It certainly sounds nice, from a worker’s perspective, but it also seems like a far-fetched idea. The average full-time employee in the U.S. works 47 hours per week, according to 2014 Gallup data. Americans have a reputation as workaholics, not only because of the long hours we keep but also because of our tendency to not go on vacation, even when we get paid vacation days and know taking a break is good for our health. With that in mind, it seems likely we’ll forge ahead with our 40-hour-plus work weeks, despite the way it seems to pummel our brains.
But if you’re looking for a job that requires less of your time than your current job, remember to check your credit as part of your preparation for the job hunt. Some employers review applicants’ credit reports as part of the hiring process, so you’ll want to know what they’ll see if they do. You can get a free annual credit report from each of the major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — on AnnualCreditReport.com