By Pooja Priyamvada
Famous British economist John Maynard Keynes predicted in a lecture in 1929 that future generations would only work about 15 hours a week because of advancement in technology. In 2000 Erik Rauch, a famous MIT biophysicist and theoretical ecologist, suggested that the work hours could be reduced even further. He suggested that any average worker that as compared to 40 hours in 1950 now needs to work only 11 hours per week for the same output.
New studies now suggest that shorter work weeks followed by longer weekends could be most beneficial for workers, especially for their mental health.
Many countries across the world now have a 40-hour work-day week, divided into 8 hours for five days each. Psychologists say after eight hours the work output and mental well-being both plateau. However, there are a few countries that already have shorter work weeks like Belgium work week is 38 hours and in Norway 37.5 hours.
Employers from various industries globally are now trying to implement shorter work weeks to observe long term benefits on employees’ productivity and holistic well-being.
In 2018, a company in New Zealand did a trial of 4-day work week , 8 hours per day amounting to 32 hours in total and achieved such positive outcomes that they were wanting to shift to this mode permanently. Several massive companies in Sweden also tried out six-hour work days experiment with nurses. Later a report on BBC reported said that in the first 18 months itself workers had reduced number of sick days, felt an improvement in their health hence increased productivity at work.
Though preliminary and initial experiments in this direction appear to be successful indicating lesser work hours are beneficial for employees' mental health, more research findings are awaited to specific as to exactly how many paid work hours per week would prove to be most beneficial for a worker's mental health as positive stress. It also needs to be found out when does this stress turn negative and lead to mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
(The author is an avid social media enthusiast, blogger and a prolific columnist on mental health related issues. Views expressed are personal.)