Brain Function Declines After Working 30 Hrs/Wk

Brain Function Declines After Working 30 Hours A Week: How To Stay Sharp When You Work Full-Time – Jul 22, 2016  By Samantha Olson

“For cognitive functioning, working far too much is worse than not working at all,”

“In the beginning work stimulates the brain cells. The stress associated with work physically and psychologically kicks in at some point and that affects the gains you get from working.”

  • Women worked best from 22 to 27 hours a week, while 
  • men tapped out between 25 to 30 hours.

After those hours, work left employees fatigued and stressed, which can potentially lead to cognitive damage, according to McKenzie.    

“In all three cases [cognitive tests] around 25 to 30 hours of work per week will maximize your cognitive skill,” McKenzie told ABC News.

I always felt this way and believed I could be far more productive if I knew I could leave earlier in the day. But the only reward for working faster than others is often only to be assigned more work than others.

I once worked at a pretzel factory bagging pretzels as they came down a conveyor belt. Six of us were bagging as quickly as we could so the pretzels wouldn’t fall off the end of the belt into a giant box.

Once, we got a bit ahead of the machine so we didn’t have to rush so much. I looked up to the office with the big window overlooking the floor, and I saw two white-collar men pointing to us and talking. Then one went to a control panel and immediately, the machine sped up and we fell behind again.

“And going for less hours or more hours reduces your cognitive skills. Too much work leads to stress and fatigue and that’s probably the key cause of this decline in cognitive skills. So these chances to refresh your body and brain may be important in determining the optimum peak.”

They found that an overworked employee’s brain was the worst of them all.

An employee who clocked in between 50 and 60 hours a week had cognitive function as low as someone who didn’t work at all.

In order to maintain the same cognitive performance, researchers believe a part-time job that requires only 20 to 30 hours a week would be ideal.

If work hours and demands in this country have climbed to miserable levels.

Before the dot-com crash, hours were more reasonable and there was time for socializing at work. But when times grew lean, managers were rewarded with bonuses for cutting costs like employees even though the same work had to be done.

So one would person end up doing the job of two or three and if they complained they were quickly replaced with another person desperate for work.

Even though the economy has since recovered (and crashed and recovered again), the belt-tightening necessary to survive hard times never stopped because employees have proven they can handle it (at least in the short run) and management incentives keep head counts low.

The researchers argue that delaying retirement age could actually worsen the brain’s ability to function — a decision many people make because of the financial necessity to save more money. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, as of May 2016, roughly 123.6 million Americans worked more than 35 hours a week.

But researchers found the work cap applied only to those over 40.

So why don’t long work weeks have a negative effect on people in their 20s and 30s? According to McKenzie, the part of the brain that’s responsible for recovery may be a little more adaptable in the young than those in middle age.

He continued. “Younger people are more resilient to working longer hours on a continued basis.”

I’ve always thought that younger people work so hard because they are more easily fooled into working much harder for too many hours than they should.

They are enticed by the dream (and by their company’s cultural propaganda) to enter the race to be “the best”, be promoted, make more money, and eventually get rich (the American dream).

Companies take advantage of employees, urging then to work hard as part of a successful “team”, think of the company as “family”, and develop close ties with co-workers to better communication. Later, the same employees are told it’s not personal when they are laid off so their manager can get another bonus for cost-cutting.


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