Working more than 39 hours a week is not good for your mental health. That’s the finding of an Australian study that looked at 8,000 employees of all ages and found that on average working more than a 40 hour week takes a serious toll, especially among working mothers researchers say. Women, they suggest, do best working 34 hours or less a week, while men are able to handle up to 47 hours.
That’s not the way we hang in America, though. Andrew Challenger, Vice President of Challenger, Gray and Christmas employment services, says it’s in our nature to work harder than any other industrialized nation on earth, and our notions of a 40-hour work week are antiquated and no longer applicable. “In the last hundred years we’ve shifted from manufacturing to become a servicing economy, and so HR departments across the country are thinking this 40-hour work week isn’t the right fit any more,” he says. We’re past that. “Right now the average American works 47 hour a week,” Challenger says. “So this traditional convention of working 40 hours a week is already overshot by most Americans.”
It’s a widely held belief that most people can work up to 48 hours a week without suffering mental consequences.