New Research: Over 40s Perform Best When They Work a 3-Day Week

By Roy Krebs

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Have you ever noticed that your productivity slumps at the end of a long work week?

Are you around or over age 40?

If you answered "yes," these findings might be of interest. 

New research published in the Melbourne Institute Worker Paper Series suggests that people over 40 experience optimal cognitive performance when they work a 25-hour week. [1]

The study included 3000 men and 3500 women who completed cognitive tests to analyze their work habits.

Participants reported more fatigue and stress after 25 hours of work through a week, and their performance levels dropped significantly at 40 hours or more. 

More specifically: 

  • Participants over 40 performed best when they worked 25 hours a week.
  • Participants over 40 who worked 55 hours a week had a worse cognitive performance than retired and unemployed people.

The study suggests that working part-time after age 40 is a healthy goal, since it helps us stay more focused and alert.

This information could be particularly helpful in light of the fact that in many countries, the official retirement age is increasing, pushing many to work full-time into late life. 

While work can have many benefits to our health, pushing too hard when we get into middle-age may not only lead to poor productivity for the organization, but poor health for individuals.

And when we aren’t able to work to our full capacity, the economy can suffer, too.

My Thoughts

Have you ever worked a part time job versus a full-time job?

Most of us who have experienced both ends of the spectrum probably understand that a 40-hour (or more) per week job can be exhausting.

Personally I try to work shorter weeks when I can for just this reason.

Plus, stress and fatigue can truly do a number on our health later in life.   

But this doesn't mean we should stop working entirely -- the study did confirm that working later in life can have a positive effect on the brain, too.

So perhaps completely stopping isn’t always the best answer for older folks who are reaching retirement age.

If you can strike a healthy balance, working part-time can help us stay focused, alert, and social, all of which can help our brains stay in good health.  

So what if you don’t have the luxury of cutting your hours to a 3-day week?

While it might not be possible to reduce your hours, you can always rethink your approach to work.

If you frequently find yourself asking, “Why am I so tired?”, try creating an action plan to optimize your lifestyle, sleep, diet, and exercise.

If you find yourself succumbing to stress, consider which of the 4 different types of stress you are experiencing and make a plan to address the issue.

Finally, dietary prebiotics and a good mood stack may help to reduce stress by optimizing sleep, promoting calmness, and supporting healthy aging.

Long term stress can cause health problems such as high blood pressure, which, if left untreated, could lead to serious consequences and even death later in life.

If you are burned out, fatigued or are experiencing too much stress, changing the way you approach work could literally mean life or death.

Striking the right balance between stimulating your brain and letting it rest might just keep you young and energized -- not to mention leaving you more time to do the things you love. 

Are you struggling with work-life balance or do you have your own tips and tricks? Share your thoughts below!

1. Payton, Matt. ”People aged over 40 perform best with a three-day working week, study finds.” The Independent, 18 April, 2016.
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