October 1, 2015
Sweden Shortens Work Day To Six Hours

Sweden's employers are shortening their work days from eight to six hours in an attempt to improve productivity. Hundreds of employers have made the change recently, with some making the change 13 years ago.

Toyota shortened its work day to six hours 13 years ago in Gothenburg, Sweden. Employers reported that staff members were happier, leading to a lower rate of turnover. Profits also increased, as productivity did. Last year, Filimundus also made the decision to switch, finding that the six-hour work day was more effective.

Swedish Employees Get Shorter Six-Hour Work Days
Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Employers have found that by people having more time at home with their family, they come to work happier. It leads to the same amount of —if not more—work being completed because employees are much more productive when they are happier. They also know that they do not have as much time to complete their work as they used to do, so procrastination is lessened.

The CEO of Fast Company, Linus Feldt, found that asking people to work for eight hours on one task was a difficult challenge. People take breaks to make the work day something they can endure. He also found that people found having a private life was much harder to manage. To help reduce the work day by two hours, the company has banned all social media and kept meetings to a minimum. All distractions are eliminated to help boost productivity. He feels that it is easier to focus intensely on work, and people are happier to shorten their work 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 the energy left when leaving the office."

--Lindus Feldt

Sweden has made the change in as many workplaces as possible. It is not just private companies, but retirement homes and hospitals. One retirement home in Sweden's second largest city, Gothenburg, decided to make the switch earlier this year. It is a trial run until next year to see if it helps employees and the home. The aim is to improve care for patients more than anything else, The Independent reports. It has led to 14 extra people being hired to cover the shortfall to ensure employees only work six hours. The business needs to decide whether the cost of hiring these people is beneficial.

Science Alert warns that too many people are working 50+ hours every week, despite knowing it is bad for them. Many employees believe that more work will be done and there will be benefits further down the line. However, last month a study by the University College of London found that those who work 55 hours a week are 33 percent more likely to have a stroke than those who work between 35 and 40 hours a week.

Six Hour Work Days Will Be Norm For Sweden
Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images

A six-hour working day would lead to individuals working 30 hours per week, presuming they work five days a week. The European Working Time Directive states that employers cannot force employees to work more than 48 hours per week, but many encourage people with overtime. Employees are also legally expected to have two days off each week, and not work more than 10 days in a row. However, many are encouraged to work extra, especially those who are struggling financially.

Sweden has used the study by the University College of London to back up the move to the six-hour work day. It is drastically different to the average 8.7 hours a day Americans work. The study has not been the only one conducted. Another found that those who work 49 hours a week or more are more likely to have more mental health problems, especially women.

Some studies have found that starting the day at 9am affects the health negatively, and encourages businesses to open from 10am. This is not something Sweden has necessarily looked into yet, but the country has made a start by shortening the work day and improving the health and mental wellbeing of employees.

[Feature Photo by Getty Images]