I’m going to work today for the first time this week. It makes Thursday my Monday and it’s kind of a happy one. For years, particularly following stressful weeks at work, I dreamed of selling the business, giving up work completely and retiring. Now I’m in a position to do just that I’m not so sure. What’s changed my attitude?
Firstly I’m doing less work which gives me time to do other things like write this blog, see friends and family, go to the gym, work on the garden and generally organise my day as I want. See my retirement routine blog.
Secondly, the truth is I care less about what I do and for this reason I never stress about it or lie awake thinking about it. None of it matters that much really and I could survive without it. This more relaxed approach seems to have helped me work better, I’m more creative, want to respond to clients more quickly and they seem to like this approach. At today’s meeting I’ll dress reasonably smartly but won’t bother wearing a suit and tie which makes me feel more relaxed and perhaps more relatable to my younger clients.
Thirdly, I like the income. I could just about survive without it but the money is useful and so is the focus it gives me. Cutting costs, invoicing, the monthly liaison with the accountant all help keeps me interested.
Finally, there is something intangible which is to do with status and interaction which makes me feel better. A day with no emails to respond to and nothing that has to be done is not ideal. It’s kind of nice to be wanted, to be useful in other people’s eyes. I see other totally retired people and sometimes get a sense of them filling their time and just living from one holiday to the next and not feeling totally happy about it.
Sure in an ideal world I wouldn’t choose, as I will do later, to drive to a non-descript Birmingham business park along the congested M42 for an hour to have pretty much the same conversation about the same kind of work that I have been doing for 30 years but I’ll do it for all the reasons above.
My feelings about work are backed up by recent research that shows that working just one day each week gives you all the mental and physical health benefits of full-time employment.
Apparently eight hours of work per week is optimal for well-being and slashes the risk of mental health disorders by a third in people moving from unemployment. In the study researchers at the universities of Cambridge and Salford also found no evidence that working any more than eight hours provided further boosts to well-being.
The academics set out to define a recommended ‘dosage’ of work for optimal wellbeing. They used data from a panel survey to examine how changes in working hours were linked to mental health and life satisfaction. The study looked at data of more than 70,000 UK residents between 2009 and 2018.
People were asked about issues such as anxiety, self-esteem and sleep problems to gauge mental health.
“We have effective dosage guides for everything from vitamin C to hours of sleep in order to help us feel better,’ said study co-author Dr Brendan Burchell.
‘But this is the first time the question has been asked of paid work. We know unemployment is often detrimental to people’s wellbeing, negatively affecting identity, status, time use, and sense of collective purpose. We now have some idea of just how much paid work is needed to get the psychosocial benefits of employment – and it’s not that much at all.”
So there you have it, eight hours work a week not a day is good for us and that’s my goal.