'We should all be working just one day a week to boost our mental health'

Workers who work just 8 hours a week had a 30% boost in mental wellbeing [Photo: Getty]
Workers who work just 8 hours a week had a 30% boost in mental wellbeing [Photo: Getty]

Feeling overworked? Heart sink at the thought of another full week chained to your desk? We here ya!

And so does science, as it turns out we should all be working just eight hours, or one day per week for the sake of our mental health.

New research by sociologists at the universities of Cambridge and Salford found that one day of work a week is the most “effective dose” for the mental health benefits of paid employment.

The study, published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, suggested that the risk of mental health problems reduced by 30 per cent when people moved from unemployment or stay-at-home parenting into paid work of eight hours or less per week.

However, the findings showed no evidence that working more than eight hours provided further boosts to wellbeing.

READ MORE: Burn-out has now been officially recognised as a medical condition, here's how to spot the symptoms

The researchers used data from a survey of more than 70,000 UK residents between 2009 and 2018 to examine how changes in working hours were linked to mental health and life satisfaction.

The typical full-time average of 37 to 40 hours was not significantly different to any other working time category when it came to mental health.

Therefore, the researchers suggested that to reap the mental wellbeing benefits of paid work, the most "effective dose" is only around one day a week because anything more makes little difference.

We’ll take that.

"We have effective dosage guides for everything from Vitamin C to hours of sleep in order to help us feel better, but this is the first time the question has been asked of paid work," said study co-author Dr Brendan Burchell, a sociologist from Cambridge University who leads the Employment Dosage research project.

"We know unemployment is often detrimental to people's wellbeing, negatively affecting identity, status, time use, and sense of collective purpose. We now have some idea of just how much paid work is needed to get the psychosocial benefits of employment - and it's not that much at all."

Workers who work just 8 hours a week saw boost in their mental wellbeing [Photo: Getty]
Workers who work just 8 hours a week saw boost in their mental wellbeing [Photo: Getty]

READ MORE: Losing just 16 minutes sleep can ruin your work day

The research was carried out in the context of a predicted rise in automation which could require shorter working hours and a redistribution of work.

“In the next few decades we could see artificial intelligence, big data and robotics replace much of the paid work currently done by humans,” said Dr Daiga Kamerade, study first author from Salford University.

“If there is not enough for everybody who wants to work full-time, we will have to rethink current norms.

“This should include the redistribution of working hours, so everyone can get the mental health benefits of a job, even if that means we all work much shorter weeks.

“Our findings are an important step in thinking what the minimum amount of paid work people might need in a future with little work to go round.”

And wait til you hear what the study authors suggested as a way of moving forward...

Yep, researchers believe their results indicate that creative policy options for moving into a future with limited work, could include "five-day weekends", working just two hours a day, or increasing annual holiday from weeks to months - even having two months off for every month at work.

Bring it on.