Sweden moves towards 6 hour work day
Oh, Sweden! You seem to be at the forefront of yet another progressive social policy. The country who brought us, IKEA, ABBA, massage, and meatballs is moving towards implementing a 6 hour work day. Studies have found that the result is increased productivity and better morale. Working longer hours does not always equate to doing more work. According to studies cited by The Atlantic, the average time spent on private activities, such as online shopping, checking social media and emails, personal phone calls, and chatting with colleagues takes up an estimated 1.5 to 3 hours per day.
"The eight-hour work day is not as effective as one would think,” said CEO of Stockholm-based app developer Filimundus, Linus Feldt. ”To stay focused on a specific work task for 8 hours is a huge challenge. In order to cope, we mix in things and pauses to make the work day more endurable. At the same time, we are finding it hard to manage our private life outside of work. We want to spend more time with our families, we want to learn new things or exercise more. I wanted to see if there could be a way to mix these things.”
In order for the shorter day to work, employees must reduce their personal business in the span of a day. "My impression now is that it is easier to focus more intensely on the work that needs to be done and you have the stamina to do it and still have energy left when leaving the office," Feldt told Fast Company. Since making this change, Feldt reports that productivity has remained the same, but the staff has fewer conflicts because people are happier and better rested.
Toyota in Gothenburg, made the switch to a shorter day 13 years ago. The result has been a lower turnover rate and a happier staff. In addition to happiness, managing director, Martin Banck told The Guardian that profits have risen by 25 percent.
Maria Bråth, CEO of an SEO specialist startup made the change 3 years ago. "The reason is that we actually care about our employees, we care enough to prioritize their time with the family, cooking or doing something else they love doing," said Bråth last month in a blog post.
A study published in The Lancet last month analyzed data from 25 studies that monitored health of over 600,000 people from the US, Europe, and Australia for up to 8.5 years found that people who worked 55 hours a week had a 33 percent greater risk of having a stroke than people who worked a 35 - 40 hour week, and a 13 percent increased risk of developing coronary heart disease, while a separate study found that working 49-hour weeks was associated with lower mental health, particularly in women.
Many Americans would argue that with their long work days comes flexibility that they don’t care to forfeit. What do you think? Does the traditional U.S. work day work for you? Or are you moving to Sweden?