Is your work schedule getting to be more than you would like to handle?   You could move to Sweden. According to Fast Company, the six-hour workday is gaining in popularity over there and it begs the questions where did the 8 hour work day come from anyway?


Well, the 8 hour workday was actually 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 North American worker apparently puts in closer to 8.7 hours a day.

But, as we all know, not all of that time is actually spent WORKING.  Lots of it is spent goofing off, checking email,  attending useless meetings, eating muffins and surfing social media.

So in response to the obvious inefficiencies, one Swedish company, Brath, made the move three years ago to a shorter work day. 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.  Here is what he wrote:

We believe that once you’ve gotten used to having time for the family, picking up the kids at day care, spending time training for a race or simply just cooking good food at home, you don’t want to lose that again. We believe that this is a good reason to stay with us and not only because of the actual impact longer hours would make in your life but for the reason behind our shorter days. . . . We actually care about our employees.”

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 said 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 what do you think?  Has Sweden got it right or wrong?

SOURCE: Workopolis, Fast Company

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