February 25, 2020

The Case for an 8-Hour Work Week

“In 1929, British economist John Maynard Keynes gave a now-famous lecture in which he predicted that later generations would work only 15 hours per week because of advanced technology. In 2000, MIT biophysicist and theoretical ecologist Erik Rauch said we could do even less: that an average worker only needs to work 11 hours per week to get as much done as 40 hours in 1950.

Of course, working so few hours isn’t possible in the current system, for income reasons, but also because of how our identity, status, and well-being tends to be wrapped up in our careers. When you go to a job, you meet people, socialize, and feel like you’re contributing to society. Being unemployed is regularly associated with negative mental and physical health consequences.

We know that working too much is bad for you, but what’s the minimum amount of work we should do to reap all the above rewards? No one had tried to answer that question, till now: A new study in Social Science and Medicine found that we only need to work eight hours a week total—less than one average 8.5-hour American work day—to get the psychological perks of working. After eight hours, well-being plateaus.”

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