Six Hours of Work

Some of us could only dream about working six hours a day, Sweden decided to test this idea out, giving workers the chance to work fewer hours on full pay, the two year trial has now ended and there is debate on whether this was a good idea.

Assistant nurse Emilie Telander, an assistant nurse at an elderly care home in Gothenburg said, “During the trial all the staff had more energy. I could see that everybody was happy”. However now that the trial has ended and she is back to her normal working hours she says, “I feel that I am more tired than I was before”, she also states that she now has less time at home to cook or read with her four-year-old daughter.

Ms Telander is one of about 70 assistant nurses who had their days shortened for the experiment, the most widely reported of a handful of trials in Sweden involving a range of employers, from start-ups to nursing homes.

Designed to measure well-being in a sector that’s struggling to recruit enough staff to care for the country’s ageing population, extra nurses were brought in to cover the lost hours. The project’s independent researchers were also paid to study employees at a similar care home who continued to work regular days. Their final report is due out next month, but data released so far strongly backs Ms Telander’s arguments.

During the first 18 months of the trial the nurses working shorter hours logged less sick leave, reported better perceived health and boosted their productivity by organising 85% more activities for their patients, from nature walks to sing-a-longs. However, the project also faced tough criticism from those concerned that the costs outweighed the benefits.

Centre-right opponents filed a motion calling on Gothenburg City Council to wrap it up prematurely last May, arguing it was unfair to continue investing taxpayers’ money in a pilot that was not economically sustainable. Saved from the axe at the eleventh hour, the trial managed to stay within budget, but still cost the city about 12 million kronor (£1.1m).

Yet, while some have also reported that staff appear calmer or are less likely to phone in sick, others have swiftly abandoned the idea. “I really don’t think that the six-hour day fits with an entrepreneurial world, or the start-up world,” argues Erik Gatenholm, chief executive of Gothenburg-based bio-ink company.

He is candid enough to admit he tested the method on his production staff after “reading about the trend on Facebook” and musing on whether it could be an innovative draw for future talent. But the firm’s experiment was ditched in less than a month, after bad feedback from employees.

“I thought it would be really fun, but it felt kind of stressful,” says Gabriel Peres. “It’s a process and it takes time and when you don’t have all that [much] time it kind of feels like skipping homework at school, things are always building up.”


Do you think you could do with working 6 hours a day or would you find it stressful to do all your work in a shorter period of time? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below!

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