Despite studies telling us it’s a really bad idea, many of us end up working 50-hour weeks or more because we think we’ll get more done and reap the benefits later. And according to a study published last month involving 600,000 people, those of us who clock up a 55-hour week will have a 33 percent greater risk of having a stroke than those who maintain a 35- to 40-hour week.
Considering this as well, Sweden is moving towards a standard 6-hour work day, with businesses across the country having already implemented the change, and a retirement home embarking on a year-long experiment to compare the costs and benefits of a shorter working day.
“I think the 8-hour work day is not as effective as one would think. To stay focused on a specific work task for 8 hours is a huge challenge. In order to cope, we mix in things and pauses to make the work day more endurable. At the same time, we are having it hard to manage our private life outside of work,” Linus Feldt, CEO of Stockholm-based app developer Filimundus, told Adele Peters at Fast Company.
Filimundus switched to a 6-hour day last year, and Feldt says their staff haven’t looked back. “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 said.
To cope with the significant cut in working hours, Feldt says staff are asked to stay off social media and other distractions while at work and meetings are kept to a minimum. “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 told Fast Company.
The thinking behind the move is that because the working day has been condensed, staff will be more motivated and have more energy to get more done in a shorter period of time. Feldt reports that not only has productivity stayed the same, there are less staff conflicts because people are happier and better rested.
The central idea behind Sweden’s six-hour work day is to encourage people to put in a focused six hours of work during the day, get their tasks done, and leave at a reasonable hour in order to enjoy their evening.
Brath, another tech startup, made the move three years ago. For them, one of the biggest advantages is that it helps them hire and keep employees, as the CEO writes in a blog post, that “We also 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.”
“I believe that we value time more than money today,” he says. “I am absolutely sure that more and more people would choose more free time before a high salary. 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. If your staff is happy, your company is happy.”
Truly admirable is the way of life Swedes live. Happy evening with family is what they love more than working for the entire day. They truly value “life”. Other nations have a lot of things to learn from this Scandinavian country.