Just over a year ago, companies in Sweden adopted a 6 hour working day. This was a government-backed initiative, aimed at improving the morale, productivity and standard of work of employees.
So, 1 year on, did the experiment have a positive effect?
The results were surprising.
Svartedalens Retirement Home in Gothenberg conducted the experiment. They have since reported that Nurses were found to be 20% happier than at a comparable organisation. Absence through sickness was slashed by 50% and they were almost 3 times less likely to take any time off at all in a two-week period.
This positive impact helped staff to do 64% more activities with the residents than if they had been obligated to put in the extra hours, according to Bengt Lorentzon, a researcher on the project.
So could the UK embrace this concept? Or are we a nation of workaholics?
According to an international report, the British are more likely than their European counterparts to put in at least 50 hours a week. We work the longest hours in Europe and spend less time sleeping and eating than almost any other Western country.
The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation & Development (OECD) compared workers from 34 industrialised nations who spent more than 50 hours a week at work. The British rate of 12% of workers putting in more than 50 hours a week at work, is the highest in Europe with just 8% of Germans, 5% of French, 4% of Irish and 1% of Dutch workers putting in more than 50 hours a week. We are even higher than the US where 10% of employees work more than 50 hours! So, we must all be miserable and desperate to embrace a 6 hour work day? Unlikely I feel; well, at least certainly not before the rest of the developed world has.
Firstly, given the number of hours, many of us put in, a 6 hour day just seems unthinkable. Companies and employees would have to make significant changes to the way they work. I also doubt that clients would be sympathetic when they were unable to reach their supplier before or after a certain time, especially as most of us have adopted an ethos whereby we are contactable outside the traditional 9 – 5 working day.
Furthermore, despite the long hours we put in, we have also emerged as some of the happiest people in the world in the study by the OECD. We manage to fit in plenty of leisure time including going to the pub (no surprise there!). In fact, according to the report, we Brits spend more than five hours a day having fun – one of the highest figures in the OECD report.
So, with a happy and hard-working workforce, I suspect that we could be near the back of the queue when it comes to making such a radical change. Sorry folks. Or maybe, just maybe, I will be proved wrong!