In September of last year we covered how Sweden’s approach to garbage and recycling is so effective that only 1% of that waste ends up in landfills. Just last week, several media outlets (including ecowatch.com) covered how the country was on the verge of becoming one of the world’s first fossil fuel-free nations. And now Sweden is successfully redefining the 40 hour work week by the widespread implementation of the 6 hour work day.
The Traditional 40 Hour Work Week
The 40 hour work week is something that most of the world has not only become accustomed to, but has grown to accept. Despite this acceptance, many of us often find ourselves drained week after week, regularly drifting out of focus when at work and eagerly awaiting the point where we can celebrate 5pm on a Friday.
But what if the work week wasn’t so draining? Would we still find ourselves so desperately anticipating the weekly TGIF moment? Or would our productivity actually surpass what we produce within what we seem to have accepted as normal?
Several Swedish organizations seemed happy to explore this possibility, and have experienced only positive results since making the switch.
The company Filimundus, a Stockholm-based app developer, made the shift last year with the theory that a shorter work day would make employees more motivated to accomplish more in a shorter period of time. The company’s CEO had this to say to Fast Company:
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. … 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. … 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.
The one caveat that Filimundus employees must follow is to stay off of social media websites during work hours, something that I’m sure a large number of us currently distract ourselves with for a substantial portion of our 8-hour work day.
Filimundus is just one of many Swedish companies to make the shift, including a retirement home that is in the midst of running an experiment surrounding the change. The company is trying to identify whether the cost of hiring 14 additional employees to cover for the lost hours will be justified by improvements in patient care and employee morale.
What Is There To Potentially Gain?
Here are some of the benefits I feel could come from making this shift, all of which are of course dependent on how well the change is implemented and the work ethic of each employee:
- A more focused workforce: Knowing that they will still have an ample portion of the day available to them after work, employees should find themselves more inclined to be productive during work hours.
- Traffic avoidance: If implemented correctly, employees could potentially avoid at least one, if not both, of the peak traffic times for travel, giving them more free time and hopefully improving their morale.
- Improved social life: With more time away from work daily, individuals would have more time to commit to themselves and others outside of the workspace, hopefully improving relationships.
- A healthier workforce: The excess free time could easily be used to increase important health factors such as sleep, diet, and exercise.
With several more Swedish companies ready to implement this work lifestyle shift, what are your thoughts on a shortened work day? Do you feel that it would be beneficial for all? Or do you think that the majority of us would abuse it, leaving organizations worse off in the long term?