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.

A Six-Hour Workday? Sweden Will Start Experimenting With Shorter Hours This Summer
[Image: Flickr user kartlasarn]

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.

About the author

Chris is a staff writer at Fast Company, where he covers business and tech. He has also written for The Week, TIME, Men's Journal, The Atlantic, and more.