Middle-aged workers better off moving to part-time

THE idea of working fewer hours after you reach 40 while also increasing your productivity may sound like an ideal work/life balance to many but the consensus is that it is far from realistic.

According to a report, which was published in the Melbourne Institute Worker Paper Series, working a three-day week gets the best performance from workers aged over 40.

Researchers found the cognitive performance of middle-aged people improved when they worked up to 25 hours a week, but over 25 hours, overall performance decreased due to "fatigue and stress".

However, while many have welcomed the concept, they said the idea was unrealistic in today's employment and financial landscape.

"We'd all like to work less hours and still earn the same income as for working full time but that is not realistic," said Darren Buchanan, director of Queensland at Hays Specialist Recruitment.

"The reality is that people feel they need to work more hours, or work more for less. It is a consistent feature of the Australian economy that productivity needs to be higher," Mr Buchanan said.

"Certainly legislation is pushing quite hard against this (working fewer hours). For example, through tax increases and the pension age increasing."

The research comes amid moves from July 1, 2017, to increase the qualifying age for Australian Age Pension from 65 to 65 and six months. The qualifying age will then increase by 6 months every two years, reaching 67 years by July 1, 2023.

Michalle Faulkner, managing director of EastCoast Human Resource Group, said while the agency often saw middle-aged candidates looking for part-time work, it was usually due to family commitments rather than work-related stress.

"I think from a lifestyle perspective it would be fabulous but I'm not sure that lifestyle choice comes into it when you have financial commitments.

"To have any type of a retirement plan requires you to work full time throughout your 40s and 50s, so that you can actually have enough to retire."

Darrin Collins, CBD curator for the Caloundra Chamber of Commerce, said the concept would probably be best applied to the hospitality industry, where businesses would benefit from ensuring customer service staff remained "fresh" around the clock.

The research studied 3000 men and 3500 women in Australia as they completed cognitive tests while their work habits were analysed.

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