What You Need to Know About Sweden’s 6-Hour Work Day

November 13, 2015 • Rehack Team


How would you feel about a 6-hour workday?

In many areas of the Western world, people in the workforce are accustomed to working at least eight hours per day, sometimes even more. However, attention recently turned to Sweden when the country announced it was shifting to a work day that only lasts for six hours.

Keep reading to get the most important aspects about that transition and why it matters.

Toyota Was a Long-Time Leader on This Matter

Although it is not mandatory for employers in Sweden to only have their employees work six hours per day, a growing number of them are doing so by choice. However, a Toyota automobile branch in the country adopted the 6-hour work day a long time ago. 13 years ago, actually.

After trying the experiment, the company reported advantages such as higher profits and better morale. People in Sweden clarify the eight-hour work day is still most common, but there are many other companies of all types and sizes following Toyota’s lead.

Americans and Swedes Might Work About the Same Amount

In order to make the 6-hour work day feasible, Swedish employees have to avoid attending non-essential meetings and checking social media accounts while at work. If you think about the number of nearly useless office gatherings you attend and how much time you spend doing things online at work that aren’t really related to your job, chances are you might only spend about six hours a day truly working, too.

The Switch is an Unusual Government Experiment

It’s one thing if employers voluntarily give employees permission to work six hours a day instead of eight. However, one of the reasons why Sweden’s 6-hour work day is suddenly part of international headlines is because it’s related to a government experiment. The results could play a role in whether businesses in Sweden decide to adopt shorter work days in a more widespread way and may even make other countries follow suit.

Last year, the city government in Gothenburg realized employees in the community’s healthcare facilities were burned out, and the problem was so severe, something had to be done. One nurse in the healthcare system mentioned there had been a problem that existed since the 1990s where too many people were tasked with unrealistic workloads. That nurse referred to the extreme lack of work-life balance as something that was no longer sustainable.

Results of the study indicate the people in the healthcare facilities received a better quality of care from the workers and that those employees weren’t as stressed out. Even though 14 new staff members were hired to ease the transition and it came at a cost of nearly $1 million, government officials are satisfied with the outcomes.

Productivity Does Not Drop as a Work Day Shortens

People who raise their eyebrows at the idea of a 6-hour work day might understandably do so because they feel certain if employees are working fewer hours, they won’t be as productive. However, offices that have tried shorter work days tend to say they only see positive changes in employees and how much work gets done.

For example, workers have better stamina when they’re tackling office responsibilities but still have energy left over to handle other responsibilities afterward, such as family obligations. Furthermore, when employees show up at the office to prepare for a day of work, they do so more eagerly, instead of feeling constantly worn down. Some companies also report it is easier for them to find and retain employees when they offer shorter work days.

Although it’s not realistic to expect your boss to hear about the news from Sweden and heartily suggest an immediate switch to 6-hour days, such a transition may not be too far off. Studies have shown the positive effect on Swedish employee’s work-life balance may be worth it. It’s clear many employees work too much, and if at least one country can figure out how to minimize that issue without sacrificing profits, it has accomplished something impressive.

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