A Six-Hour Workday? Sweden Will Start Experimenting With Shorter Hours This Summer

The year-long experiment is designed to test whether or not less work means increased productivity.

Some government workers in the city of Gothenburg, Sweden, are about to embark on an interesting experiment this summer--a six-hour workday, with full pay.

The year-long project, set to officially begin July 1st, will divide some workers into two groups. One enviable test group will work shorter days, while their colleagues will work eight hours each day. It is unclear how this will be decided exactly, but it is an experiment designed to test growing assumptions that fewer, more-focused hours could be a boon for employee productivity. "We'll compare the two afterwards and see how they differ," Mat Pilhem, the Left Party deputy mayor of Gothenburg, told The Local. "We hope to get the staff members taking fewer sick days and feeling better mentally and physically after they've worked shorter days."

Save for exceptions like the hyper-caffeinated, workaholic culture prevalent throughout most of the United States--where workers somehow manage to simultaneously work long hours and stay productive--the majority of workers belonging to OECD countries (an organization comprised largely of well-to-do nations) see steep productivity declines as employees log more hours.


Via The Economist

"My friends hate me," Robert Nilsson, a mechanic in Gothenburg who gets into work at noon and clocks out at 6 p.m., told Agence France-Presse. "Most of them think because I work six hours, I shouldn't be paid for eight."

The economist John Maynard Keynes famously predicted in the early 20th century that, by the year 2030, only the most dedicated members of the workforce would be clocking more than 15 hours a week. But, as Quartz pointed out,Keynes declared this around the same time that Ford cemented the 40-hour workweek as a labor standard.

Unfortunately, while we can't all move to Gothenburg, there are easy ways to knock an hour off your workday without sacrificing productivity, such as allocating the morning for harder tasks on your to-do list, or delegating 5- to 10-minute gaps in your schedule to more mundane tasks like responding to emails.

And if that doesn't work, remember: The work will still be there tomorrow, too.

[Image: Flickr user kartlasarn]

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8 Comments

  • Where did this statement stem from: 'Save for exceptions like the hyper-caffeinated, workaholic culture prevalent throughout most of the United States--where workers somehow manage to simultaneously work long hours and stay productive'

    Since when? I'd hazard a guess at significant inefficiency in these so-called productive places in the States.

  • Becky Hoven

    "the United States--where workers somehow manage to simultaneously work long hours and stay productive"

    In my experience, Americans are spending part of that time figuring out how to look busy. Employers have come to expect overtime as the norm. You're not a good employee if you're not working overtime (whether it's paid or unpaid).

  • In the connected age, it is more about work/life integration than work/life balance. For example, I am home for dinner with my kids every night. That means I turn my laptop on at 9pm after they are in bed, so I can do what I would have done if I stayed later in the office. Balance is difficult when you're always connected. Integration is ok!

  • proteus9999

    In general companies still see people as “productive units” rather than smart animals subject to rhythms of nature. Multitasking is what computers do. But somehow or other, this idea leaked out of its domain and became misapplied to humans. The best humans can do is rapidly switch concentration from one task to another giving the illusion of enhanced capability. I’m not saying we can’t automatically perform tasks, but these only come through repetition, say, the muscle memory of a dancer or driver.

    Hours worked is a throwback to the late eighteenth century. It’s also simplistic thinking. Today we still think of hard work and long hours are good in and of themselves. The Puritan spirit takes a long time to die. You see this perceived “time value” all the time. Meetings go on long after attention has flagged.

    Long hours are a misguided badge of courage. Efficiency is confused with effectiveness. What’s missing in the workplace is a general understanding of our chronobiology.

  • " there are easy ways to knock an hour off your workday without sacrificing productivity,"

    sure there is. become an expert at your skill and work for yourself, then you can make your own hours

  • "Save for exceptions like the hyper-caffeinated, workaholic culture prevalent throughout most of the United States-"

    at the expense of having unruly kids, rogue government, unconstitutional laws being passed behind our backs among other forms of neglect for not being an active participant in the society around us because everyone is so busy working, that they're too tired to care about anything by the time they get home. hardly a good trade off.