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6 hour working day – does it work?

Posted by
28 Feb 2017
Six hour working dayThere have been whispers of Sweden working a six hour day for a few years now. However, last week I was interested to read about the recent experiments that have been conducted there, allowing employees to reduce their working shift from eight hours to six hours as standard.

A number of private and public sector organisations had embraced the idea which was introduced in 2015. The Swedes famously have a culture that is heavily focused upon ensuring employees have a healthy work/life balance, in the belief that profitability is directly linked with health and happiness.

The experiment has had mixed reactions, producing positive feedback, as well as attracting some criticism.

Positives to come out of the scheme include:

  • A reduction in sick leave.
  • Employees feeling more energised.
  • Employees being more focused and engaged.
  • Financial benefits to working parents as childcare costs are lower

Criticisms of the scheme:

  • Too costly, as employers needed to recruit additional staff to cover the shortfall when shifts decreased.
  • More pressure on employees to complete tasks within six hours.
  • Clients dissatisfied with reduced availability.

Further trials are to be carried out in Sweden to determine whether a six hour working day will be rolled out nationwide. However, the initial trials have demonstrated that the shorter working day is not suitable for all industries
Whilst nurses enjoyed renewed energy and engagement with their patients, workers in the private sector found that the shorter hours actually increased pressure and reduced productivity. In these sectors, it is difficult to concentrate effectively on one project for a solid period of time and therefore the working days need to allow for some down-time to allow employees to recharge their creative energy.

In the UK, Britons work on average 43.6 hours per week. Although a long way from a six hour working day, there has been a definite shift towards prioritising a positive work/life balance rather than earning money. Employers are working hard to accommodate these motivations by providing schemes and incentives to support this shift including introducing remote working, flexi-time, ability to purchase additional annual leave, charitable days and ‘wellness’ afternoons, all benefits aimed at improving working conditions for full-time employees in the UK.

For me, I am not sure that a six hour working day could be universally applied to all industries. The recruitment industry is far too demanding to limit it to six hours a day as both clients and candidates relationships would suffer. That being said, perhaps we need to shift the idea that there is always someone available and alter the expectation that recruiters should be, and are in the office for nine to ten hours per day. There is certainly a bigger focus on having more of a work/life balance, particularly amongst the ‘millennial’ generation where money isn’t necessarily everything. I admire these industries in Sweden that are really putting themselves out there and trying these alternative ways of working, whether it works or not!

What are your thoughts on this? If your standard working day was six hours, what impact do you think this would have in your role? What does your organisation do to assist with a work/life balance and does it work for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for further balance in your professional and personal life, please get in touch by emailing or browse through our latest roles. Browse Roles

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