Sweden is switching to a six-hour workday. Should we follow suit?
Heavy workweek got you down? You could move to Sweden. According to Fast Company, the six-hour workday is gaining in popularity over there.
Or maybe we could bring it here?
I didn’t actually know where the standard eight-hour day came from until I read the Fast Company article, which explains that it was first implemented by Henry Ford, for factory workers. It’s become such a part of every-day life that we barely think about it anymore – though nowadays the average American worker apparently puts in closer to 8.7 hours a day.
Not all of that time is productive, though. Lots of it is spent goofing off, checking email attending useless meetings, and surfing social media.
One Swedish company, Brath, made the move three years ago. CEO Magnus Brath writes in a blog post that he believes the shorter hours help employees maintain work-life balance, which in turn helps the organization with employee retention.
Another company, Stockholm-based app developer Filimundus, switched to a six-hour day last year. They tweaked things somewhat by eliminating some meetings and asking employees to avoid distractions. And there has reportedly been no loss in productivity. CEO Linus Feldt told Fast Company that employees are also happier and more energized.
“I think the eight-hour workday is not as effective as one would think,” Feldt said. “To stay focused on a specific work task for eight hours is a huge challenge. . . . In order to cope, we mix in things and pauses to make the workday more endurable. At the same time, we are having 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.”
He added, “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.”
Meanwhile, in the public sector, nurses at a government-run retirement home have switched to a six-hour day for the same pay, in a temporary experiment. “The costs were offset by better care for patients because nurses were less exhausted.”
Working fewer hours is better for you, according to science. A recent study involving 600,000 people found that people who work 55 hours a week have a 33% greater risk of stroke than those who maintain a 35- to 40-hour week. And that’s bad, because nearly half of U.S. workers say they regularly work 50 hours a week or more.
So, let’s cut the workday!
Not everyone agrees with the idea. Workopolis Editor in Chief (my boss), Peter Harris, isn’t at all interested in the idea. “I would like a 10-hour workday,” he says. “And a three-day weekend. That would really help with my work-life balance.”
I’m on the fence. I’m not sure I could accomplish the same amount in a shorter day. But I like the idea of spending more time with my family.
How about you. Yes, you! What do we think of this idea? Could you cover as much ground in ewer hours? Would you like to try?