Swedish Businesses Are Trialling Six Hour Working Days To Improve Worker Morale And Health

01/10/2015 10:58 | Updated 01 October 2015

A six-hour working day to improve staff morale and efficiency is being trialled at a number of businesses in Sweden.

The county is already famed for its approach to a healthy work/ life balance and in 2012 was registered as having some of the shortest work hours among OECD countries.

Stockholm-based app developer Filimundus CEO Linus Feldt told Fast Company he switched to a six-hour day last year and hasn’t looked back.

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Some businesses in Sweden are reducing their working day to six hours instead of eight

He said: “I think the eight-hour workday is not as effective as one would think. 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.”

To accommodate the lost two hours, Feldt explains staff are asked to minimise distractions such as social media and meetings are cut down. Productivity, he says, has remained the same.

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“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.”

He claims his staff are happier and report feeling less drained and fatigued, adding: “Going from an eight-hour day to six has helped us spread the message that we invest in our staff. That we believe that a happy staff is the absolute top priority for a successful company.”

Meanwhile Swedish retirement home Svartedalens has been trialling shorter days for the same wage since February, the Guardian reports.

“I used to be exhausted all the time, I would come home from work and pass out on the sofa,” says Lise-Lotte Pettersson, 41, an assistant nurse at the care home in Gothenburg. “But not now. I am much more alert: I have much more energy for my work, and also for family life.”

The Svartedalens trial has seen an extra 14 staff hired to cover the shortfall in hours, but has inspired Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska University Hospital’s orthopedic surgery unit to follow suit. And the newspaper writes the trend is not limited to the public sector, with small businesses also reporting successes.

A similar experiment at a Toyota services centre in Gothenburg has been ongoing for around a decade.

But not everyone is an advocate of the shorter hours.

Sweden’s Kiruna District Council ended a 16-year six hour work day experiment for 250 employees in 2005, claiming “it has been hard to show any clear effects on health.”

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