People over 40 are way more productive when they work part-time

All work and no play is bad for aging brains.
All work and no play is bad for aging brains.
Image: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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After a relaxing four-day weekend, you might find that you’re more productive at work than usual.

You’re not the only one. Researchers have evidence that aging brains function best when they work part-time.

For employees over the age of 40, the sweet spot for the best productivity is around three days of work per week, according to a new study (pdf) by researchers at the University of Melbourne. That’s when workers showed the highest level of brain functioning.

The findings are based on an analysis of the work habits and cognitive skills of 3,000 men and 3,500 women aged 40 years and older, living in Australia. Their brain functions were scored based on the results of three tests: a memory test; a reading test; and an attention, visual comprehension, and motor skills test.

In all three tests, participants who worked part-time, around 25 to 30 hours a week, showed the sharpest cognitive skills.

Cognitive abilities worsened among those who worked more hours, or fewer hours, per week. They were lowest among those who worked 50 to 60 hours per work and in those didn’t work at all. The findings suggest that some work is good for your brain, but too much can be damaging, at least for older and middle-aged workers.

“Work can be a double edged sword,” the report said. “It can stimulate brain activity. But, at the same time, long working hours and certain types of tasks can cause fatigue and stress, which potentially damage cognitive functions.”

Men over the age of 40 who worked 25 to 30 hours per week were the most productive, while women’s productivity peaked at around 22 to 27 hours a week.