A recent study out of Cambridge University offers some insight as to what the key to happiness may be.
The study surveyed 5,000 people during the past year and found the following:
- those who lost their jobs during the pandemic were the the most likely to be unhappy
- the next unhappiest group were those working five days a week
- the happiest group were those working just one or two days per week
These results surprised Brendan Burchell, professor in social sciences, and one of the lead authors of the study. “It was an unexpected finding because we had assumed that the maximum levels of wellbeing would be among those working three or four days a week.”
He added: ‘Why do we think working 40 hours a week is normal? At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution people were working 100-hour weeks but in the UK that stopped decades ago.”
So I knew it. The 40-hour work week is just a number pulled out of thin air.
If people can get their job done in one or two days, why are they putting in 40 hours?
In this latest study, the scientists found that working just one day a week is enough to provide the mental wellbeing and happiness benefits that employment can offer. But working less than one full day a week can have a serious negative impact on one’s mental health.
As the Guardian points out, an unspoken assumption of all this is that if people are only working one day per week, their income would be supplemented by some form of Universal Basic Income. As I’ve written before, I am a fan of such plans.
So bottom line, work less, be happier. But still do some work.
I did find it ironic that the results of this study came out the same week that a group of junior bankers at Goldman Sachs went viral on social media, in which they complained about what they described as workplace abuse, including 100-hour weeks.
They must be really unhappy…