Monday – “Ugh. Whatever. Let’s just grind through this day and get as much work done as possible.”
Tuesday – “I want to kill someone.”
Wednesday – “Kill me.”
Thursday – “Hey, you know what? This dumb week is almost over. I can do this. Let’s get shit done!”
Friday – “Thank you, Jesus, the week is over at the end of today. I can do this. Let’s crank out some work! Well, until like 3:00 p.m., anyway.”
There are only about three days (perhaps four days if you are lucky) of actual effective full-time work in there, which feels accurate. It’s widely understood but a rarely acknowledged truth that at least two days a week most people are coasting on a cynical autopilot, barely able to keep their eyes wider than half open and salivating for a day off already.
Those days they’re mostly focused on trying to appear just competent enough that their boss leaves them alone, avoiding being trapped in an inane conversation with a guy named Jerry or a woman named Sharon telling the story about her Christmas in Vermont again. Squeezing every last second out of their lunch hour ––because even a break room that smells like microwaved fish leftovers, or a nearby Red Lobster that smells like freshly microwaved fish, is a better place to be than at their desk.
Time-management wise, those are not effective work days.
Apparently, a recent study by economic researchers published in the Melbourne Institute Worker Paper series, agrees about shorter work weeks; in particular about people over 40 years of age (a.k.a people right below the “typical” retirement age). The study claims that 25 hours of work per week –– roughly a three-day work week –– is the optimal amount of time those 40 and over should work. Which means that your 40-hour workweek just turned into a four day weekend.
According to the study, 25 hours is when cognitive function and effectiveness crests. After that, fatigue and stress start to deteriorate the worker’s abilities and the well-being of the employee, as well as their brain activity, suffer from a longer working week.
And that’s not even taking into account the demoralization of knowing it’s only Tuesday, and that even after that particular godforsaken day is over you still have three more days left. And also Jerry is telling terrible jokes that he absolutely got out of a joke book he bought. Just so he can make more friends and impress people and dammit he just yelled, “Hey you gotta come here this one,” at you and now you’re considering drowning yourself in the toilet just to spend less time in the office.
Frankly, after likely 18-ish years of working, 40-year-olds deserve to start winding down their professional lives and have their work-life balance lean toward life. (If they so choose.) Why not let people ease slowly into the warm bath that is retirement instead of dropping them in once they hit their mid-60s? The idea of weekends being five days long after you turn 40 would definitely make me a harder worker at present. Just like the promise of a closer weekend makes me a better worker on Thursday and Friday than Tuesday and Wednesday. You run faster when you can see the finish line.
The United States needs to start culturally shifting in this direction hard and fast.