The Hype Around the 6 Hour Work Day
At the end of 2015 the internet exploded with headlines about the compulsory 6 hour working day that was being introduced in Sweden. And much to the internets disappointment this wasn’t exactly accurate – one study had been wildly exaggerated. Indeed in 2015 a nursing home in Gothenburg did initiate a year long trial where 60 of the nurses hours were reduced from eight hours to six while their colleagues’ hours remained the same. The study has now been extended by a year and the researchers are monitoring changes in productivity, overall health, happiness, number of sick days and employee retention as well as satisfaction among the patients.
This led to a few (but by no means all of) Swedish companies following suit. As a country already big on work-life balance and wellbeing Swedish businesses are able to see the link between health and profitability. On the whole employees have plenty of time to enjoy their surroundings, pursue hobbies and spend time with family. Only around 1% Swedes work more than 50 hours a week and the majority of offices are empty after 5pm, so it is a completely different culture from the likes of the UK and the US.
Today more and more companies are striving for a startup like culture and often this means creating new ways of working that allow for a better work-life balance, whether it be shorter working days, flexible hours or perks such as gym memberships or free childcare. In return employers get greater focus and heightened creativity from employees as well as an environment people want to work in. In general people are just all round happier with a little extra personal time.
A UK based company Agent Marketing trialled a shorter working day and agreed that energy level stay consistently higher throughout the day plus employees were more focused. But they also recognised it wasn’t for everyone. Developers for example tend to work very long hours and simply can’t get enough done in a six hour day, so it actually became stressful for them.
Six hour working days are still a long way from becoming the norm, in and out of Sweden. However it is definitely positive seeing different companies in different locations considering work life balance and the role it plays in building a more productive workforce. Certainly for some roles, most likely creative ones, six hour days could be the way forward.