The average working week should be capped at 39 hours in order to protect workers’ mental and physical health, according to a latest research from the Australian National University (ANU).
Researchers said that working long hours takes a significant toll on general well-being as well as the mental health of workers and have recommended the work limit be set at 39 hours per week, down from the 48-hour week standard set internationally around 80 years ago.
The ANU’s Dr. Huong Dinh said around two-thirds of all Australians currently working full time are at work for more than 40 hours per week.
“Long work hours erode a person’s mental and physical health, because it leaves less time to eat well and look after themselves properly,” Dinh said in a statement on Friday.
Dinh said a healthy work limit for women and those who do a lot of domestic work should be 34 hours per week, while those who do not engage in other domestic work could work up to 47 hours a week while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
“Despite the fact that women on average are as skilled as men, women on average have lower paid jobs and less autonomy than men, and they spend much more time on care and domestic work,” Dinh said.
“Given the extra demands placed on women, it’s impossible for women to work long hours often expected by employers unless they compromise their health.”
Co-researcher Professor Lyndall Strazdins said striking a work-life balance was crucial to maintaining a healthy life.
“Australia needs to do more to change attitude to work and to support men to take time to care without penalty or prejudice. Australians also need to dispel the widespread belief that people need to work long hours to do a good job,” Strazdins said.