There has been a working time revolution taking place in Sweden as businesses trial the six-hour working day.
Employers in Gothenburg, the country’s second largest city, have reduced the length of their working day in an effort to improve productivity and work-life balance.
The trial is running as part of a controlled experiment into the advantages of a shorter working day. There are two groups of municipal employees involved in the trial, half on the six-hour working day and half working eight hour days. Both groups receive the same pay.
Mats Pilhem, Gothenburg’s deputy mayor, said that he hoped “staff members would take fewer sick days and feel better mentally and physically after working shorter days.”
Toyota centres in Gothenburg switched to a six-hour working day in a previous trial. The company reported happier staff, a lower turnover rate and an increase in profits during that time.
The trial has not been restricted to Gothenburg. Filimundus, a software developer based in Stockholm, introduced the reduced working hours last year.
Linus Feldt, Filimundus CEO, told business website Fast Company: “The eight-hour work day is not as effective as one would think.”
“To stay focused on a specific work task for eight hours is a huge challenge. In order to cope, we mix in things and pauses to make the work day more endurable. At the same time, we are having it hard to manage our private life outside of work.”
Filimundus employees are banned from social media whilst meetings are kept to a minimum. The aim is that staff will be more motivated to work during the time that they are in the office.
Regardless of the benefits the experiment is unlikely to continue beyond the end of next year. The centre-left Gothenburg council has lost its majority and the Conservative and Liberal parties are firmly opposed to the idea. According to research by the Liberal party the trial is costing roughly 8m Swedish krona (£630,000) a year.
The issue of the six-hour working day boils down to expense against employee wellbeing. As Daniel Bermar, leader of the Left party group on Gothenburg city council stated: “Not everything is about making things cheaper and more efficient, but about making them better.”