Sweden has experimented with six-hour working days, with workers allowed the opportunity to work fewer hours on full pay. The two-year trial has now come to an end, and the findings are somewhat surprising.
A few companies in Sweden moved to a six-hour working day in a bid to increase productivity and build a happier workforce.
Employers across the country made the change to get more done in a shorter amount of time and have more energy to enjoy their private lives.
Toyota centres in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, made the change almost 14 years ago, with the company reporting happier staff, a lower turnover rate, and climb in profits during that time.
Filimundus, an app developer situated in the capital Stockholm, introduced the six-hour day in 2014. In an interview with Fast Company, Linus Feldt, CEO of Filimundus, said, “The eight-hour work day is not as effective as one would think.”
Feldt added, “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.”
He went on to say, that employees are not allowed on social media, meetings are kept to a minimum, and other daily distractions were eliminated. The aim is that staff will be more motivated to work more intensely while in the office.
The new workday would ensure people have enough energy to pursue their private lives when they leave work – something that can be difficult with eight-hour days. “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 the energy left when leaving the office,” Feldt added.
Doctors and nurses in some hospitals in Sweden also made the move to six-hour working days.
After working for 2 years of six-hour shifts, assistant nurse Emilie Telander, 26, was told to go back to eight-hour days. “I feel that I am more tired than I was before,” she said, expressing the fact that she now has less time at home to cook or read with her daughter.
Telander was one of around 70 assistant nurses at Svartedalen’s elderly care home, who had their days shortened for the experiment, the most widely reported of a handful of trials in the country.
During the trial, the nurses working shorter hours logged less sick leave, reported better perceived health, and a boost in productivity by organising 85% more activities for their patients from nature walks to sing-a-longs.
While the experiment saw many benefits, the project also faced tough criticism from those concerned that the costs outweighed the benefits. Attempts to prove the effectiveness of reduced hours have been inconclusive so far.
One success is Toyota’s Swedish service centre, where the company has kept the shorter shifts ever since they were cut somewhat 14 years ago. The company continues to see a boost in productivity and increased profits.