Swedish Companies Try Out Six-Hour Work Day


Matt Bell
In Sweden, some companies are requiring their employees to work a mere six hours a day.

The average person spends between one and three hours a day on “private activities” unrelated to work, according to a 2013 study by Roland Paulsen of Lund University. This might not come as much of a surprise to many people—after all, how many of us have been caught scrolling through Facebook while at the office—but, it poses a big problem to many companies seeking to maximize employee productivity without cutting into workplace satisfaction.

In Sweden, some companies are looking to address this problem by cutting out the very “empty hours” that are often filled with non-work related tasks. Rather than a typical eight-hour work day, these companies are instead requiring their employees to work a mere six hours a day, while still providing the same weekly wages that workers had under the previous 50-hour and above workweeks.

Under these new rules, the theory holds that workers will be motivated to cut out the “empty hours” in exchange for additional time off of work, while allowing companies to still maintain the same level of productivity. In fact, some companies, such as Filimundus, an app development firm based in Stockholm, are mandating that workers keep off social media and similar distractions in exchange for the new hours, reports ScienceAlert.

So far, results seem promising: according to ScienceAlert, Filimundus’ implementation of the six-hour workday has led to not only consistent levels of workplace productivity, but also a reduction in conflicts between employees. Several Gothenburg-based Toyota service centers, which switched to a six-hour day approximately 13 years ago, reinforce this result, themselves reporting happier staff and a lower turnover rate amongst employees.

Not all ventures into the six-hour workday have proven successful, however. A year-long trial of the six-hour day at a retirement home in Umeå, Sweden, showed that sick leave days—a common judge of workplace satisfaction—did not decrease over the course of the year, but, in fact, rose by over one percent, reports Business Insider.

While many other experiments in the reduced workday have proven to be a success—as was the case in another Swedish retirement home, Svartedalens, which, according to Bloomberg, found that its own implementation led not only to increased productivity, but also to a 20 percent increase in reported employee happiness—the Umeå case shows that not every implementation is guaranteed to have a net positive effect.

Still, the relative success of the Swedish experiment has caused several other companies in Europe to consider a six-hour workday. In Denmark, the translation firm Translated By Us has made the switch to reduced hours, while British publication the Mirror has reported that several UK-based companies are starting to consider the approach themselves.