You Should Work Only This Number of Hours a Week, According to Science

May 16, 2016
Tagged with: You Should Work Only This Number of Hours a Week, According to Science

Due to competitive market today, you have to work hard in order to make your way to success. This is particularly important if you’re an entrepreneur or a small business owner. But, how many hours a week you should work? That’s a common question and a subject of many debates among experts. The primary purpose of this article is to explain how many hours you should work a week and why working more than that can have a negative impact on your health.

What does science say?

Claire C. Caruso and a group of researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a thorough research for their report on working hours and effects of working overtime on employees. They examined results of 29 studies and 1 meta-analysis associated with working overtime. They discovered the following:

  • Working overtime increases risk for acute myocardial infarction. In fact, working 61 hours a week or more increased the odds by the two-fold or more
  • Employees working 84 to 96 hours of overtime per month had increased blood pressure comparing to employees working 25 to 43 hours of overtime per month
  • Overtime is associated with poorer perceived general health
  • Overtime was associated with mortality and morbidity in 8 out of 12 studies
  • There are even some links between working overtime and preterm birth

Scientists who worked on the report also discovered that working overtime is associated with unhealthy weight gain in men. That’s not all; changing from 40-hour work week to longer working hours raised the odds for smoking in both women and men. The report showed that women who either reduced or increased their average hours during work week also increased the odds for higher alcohol consumption. In fact, higher alcohol consumption in nurses was associated with longer working hours.

All examined studies show that working more than 40 hours a week isn’t beneficial for healthy lifestyle and is associated with unhealthy habits and increased risk for various illnesses and conditions. Moreover, report states that individuals who worked overtime reported poorer performance on tests of cognitive function and executive function comparing to those who did not. The report goes on to explain that as work hours increased in health care workers, car crashes and “on the job” accidents increased as well.

Why 40 hours?

It’s widely believed that the more ours per week you work the more things you get done. However, that’s not entirely correct. Working such long hours can have a negative impact on your performance and decrease your productivity. In fact, every hour you work over 40 hours a week is making you less effective and productive in both short and long haul. You’re probably wondering why this happens? The reason is simple; spending 8 hours at work can be very exhausting and all you have to do is to go home and relax. Therefore, working more than 8 hours a day you’re at a higher risk for burnout, which could take weeks to recover from.

Basically, you can accomplish more and become more productive working 40 hours a week which means you don’t have to put up with 60 or 70-hour work week.

Best time of the day to work

Now that we sorted how many hours it’s recommended to work during week, it’s also important to know when to work during the day. The best way to accomplish more is to do your work during the most productive time frame. So, when is the most productive time frame for you? You can find out the answer by asking yourself this question: Are you a lark, owl, or a hummingbird

Larks are morning people and usually older individuals who wake up early to tackle the day immediately. Here’s what you should know about larks:

  • Favorite meal is breakfast
  • Most productive in late morning
  • Most active around 2.30 pm
  • Don’t nap, exercise in the morning
  • Slowly lose energy by the evening

Owls are usually younger individuals who prefer going to bed late at night and aren’t fans of waking up in the early morning. They also:

  • Are full of energy in the evening
  • Most alert around 6 pm
  • Take longer naps
  • Exercise in the evening
  • Favorite meal is dinner

Hummingbirds are a combination between owls and larks. They can wake up early in the morning when they have to and they have no problem staying up late. If you’re a hummingbird, the time frame when you’re most productive depends on whether you wake up earlier or later (check larks and owls).

According to experts, your circadian rhythm plays an important role in productivity levels. For example, if you find it easy to wake up in the morning and if your energy levels are at their highest at that time frame, that’s when you should strive to do most of your work. If you’re most productive later in the afternoon, you should plan your work accordingly. In order to get the most out of your 8-hour day, the key is to distribute the work in order to finish everything on time and get more done when your productivity peaks.

Tips for productivity
In order to get more done during 8-hour work day or 40-hours work week, it’s important to know how to boost your productivity. Here are a few tips:

  • Schedule breaks into your daily calendar
  • Set a reminder to remind you when to take a break/return to work
  • Create realistic to-do lists i.e. divide your projects onto smaller milestones
  • Prioritize tasks
  • Know what to eat, nutrition is important for productivity and you should strive to eat well-balanced diet at all times. Healthy foods to eat include berries, eggs, salmon, eggplant, dark chocolate, yogurt, dark leafy greens, whole grains, etc.
  • Use checklists for repetitive and exhausting tasks to reduce errors
  • Pace yourself and balance your workload
  • Don’t open internet browsers until you need them
  • Start everything with positive attitude.


According to the extensive report conducted by CDC, working 40 hours is ideal while working more than that is associated with a wide array of health risks and unhealthy habits. To accomplish more at work, it’s important to organize the workload and take breaks that will help you stay focused on your project.


Author: Vaileria Dennis

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