Science Says You’re Happy With a 40-Hour Work Week

Was this whole article just an excuse to use a picture of Milton from "Office Space?" You can't prove that. (Screen shot from

Was this whole article just an excuse to use a picture of Milton from “Office Space?” You can’t prove that. (Screen shot from

With my academic career coming to a close after this semester (I think), I guess it’s finally time to start looking for a full-time job. Hey, I’ve started to think to myself, why not try to land a job somewhere in Europe where the mid-day siestas flow like wine and the 40-hour work week is just an ugly memory? In the Netherlands, for example, the four-day work week is nearly standard and the average number of hours worked per week is an inviting 29. I could get used to that.

And yet, just when I started to get my hopes up, science had to go and ruin everything. Thanks a lot, science.

As The New York Times reports, according to a study conducted by Robert Rudolf, an assistant professor of economics at Korea University, a shorter work week might not make me (or you) happier after all.

“South Korea changed its labor regulations in 2004, reducing the work week to five days a week and 40 hours from the previous six-day, 44-hour week, providing a natural experiment to test whether working fewer hours would increase happiness.

“Using data from an annual survey of 5,000 Korean households, Dr. Rudolf analyzed overall job satisfaction and overall satisfaction with life before and after the changes in working hours. Using a five-point scale, ranging from very dissatisfied to very satisfied, he found that for both sexes, a reduction in hours had no effect on job or life satisfaction.”

How is this possible?! Seriously — BRAIN DOES NOT COMPUTE.

Sorry, science. I usually buy a lot of what you’re selling, but I just can’t accept this. There’s no way a person’s “life satisfaction” wouldn’t improve with less time spent at work. Stop lying to me, science.

Interestingly though, other researchers have argued that by reducing the number of hours worked per week, we could significantly reduce our unemployment rate. Of course, these changes would probably involve sacrificing some income or paid vacations. Believe it or not, there is actually a group of academics and politicians calling for this very thing to take place in Germany, only they want to keep full pay as well.

So even if working less hours won’t have any effect on your life satisfaction, it might help the country solve some of its unemployment issues. And that would certainly improve many people’s life satisfaction, even if it didn’t improve your own.


CharlieCharlie Crespo (@Little_Utopia) is the editor-in-chief of Little Utopia.

Previously from Charlie Crespo:
Viral Video of the Week: Georgia Fan Sobs on the Radio
Beertopia: Duvel Moortgat’s Duvel
The Pavel Datsyuk Conundrum
Monday’s Viral Video: Don’t Forget Your Phone
Dude … Cookie Monster is a Scumbag

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