Sweden may Switch to 6-Hour Workdays to Boost Productivity

Sweden may Switch to 6-Hour Workdays to Boost Productivity
General Health

You should so want to live in Sweden right now, because a growing number of businesses are switching to 6-hour work days. [1]

Many business owners have caught onto the idea that less time at work might actually increase productivity. They’ve begun to accept that focusing for 8 hours straight can be hard, so they’re hoping the move will make it easier for workers to pay attention, funnel more energy into their projects, and cut down on stress. Some company heads also recognize that less time at work means more time spent at home with families, who often don’t get the attention they deserve.

The trade-off for employees is that they must spend less time on focusing on personal business during the work day and non-essential meetings must be eliminated – not that anyone is complaining about that part.

“The reason is that we actually care about our employees, we care enough to prioritize their time with the family, cooking or doing something else they love doing,” wrote Brath CEO Maria Brath in a blog post last month. Brath, an SEO specialist startup, lobbed 2 hours off of its work day 3 years ago.

Toyota Services in Gothenburg made the switch 13 years ago, when the idea was laughable to most companies, at best. The corporation says its employees are now happier and the company has reported higher profit earnings in the years since it unshackled its workers from the average work schedule.

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In Gothenburg, the government launched an experiment in April 2014 in a nursing home, allowing nurses to work shorter shifts. The switch was actually made in February of this year. The results of the project are expected to be released in late 2016. The nurses already say they have more energy, which has made them more efficient.

The shorter hours aren’t just good for the nurses; when the staff is more relaxed, so are the residents.

Ann-Charlotte Dahlbom Larsson, head of elderly care at Svartedalens care home, says:

“Since the 1990s we have had more work and fewer people – we can’t do it anymore. There is a lot of illness and depression among staff in the care sector because of exhaustion – the lack of balance between work and life is not good for anyone.”

Lise-Lotte Pettersson, 41, an assistant nurse at the home, told The Guardian:

“I used to be exhausted all the time, I would come home from work and pass out on the sofa. But not now. I am much more alert: I have much more energy for my work, and also for family life.”

In the United States, the average worker spends 8.7 hours a day working. Last month, a study published in The Lancet showed the toll that long work hours take on the body:

  • Individuals who worked 49 hours a week had a 13% increased risk of developing coronary heart disease.

A separate study revealed that a 49-hour work week was associated with poorer mental health, particularly in women. [3]

In early September, researchers at Oxford University’s Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute released the findings of a study that showed the average 9-to-5 workday throws our internal body clocks out of whack. [4]

“Staff should start at 10am… Staff are usually sleep-deprived,” said the institute’s Paul Kelley. “Everybody is suffering and they don’t have to. We cannot change out 24-hour rhythms.”

Until and unless the U.S. follows suit, we’ll just have to settle for daydreaming about that extra hour of sleep, or those 2 extra hours of personal time.


[1] CNN Money

[2] The Guardian

[3] Science Alert

[4] USA Today