Sweden's six-hour day deemed “too expensive”

Sweden's six-hour day deemed “too expensive”

Despite fewer sick days and improved productivity, a two-year experiment for Sweden’s six-hour working day, trialled in Gothenburg, has failed – Bloomberg reports.

68 nurses in the employ of a care home all received a reduction in their working hours, from eight hours a-day to six, but not in pay. As a result, 17 extra employees were needed at a cost of over £1million. Participants said they felt healthier – sickness absence decreased – and patient care improved. However, the scheme won’t be made permanent.

These results differ from previous tests, this time located in Sjöjungfrun, in Umeå, over the course of one year and in a retirement home, where sick days rose from eight per cent to 9.3%.  Business Insider Nordic hypothesised that HR cannot apply the one blanket rule to all workplaces – and instead more research needed to be done on the topic.

Daniel Bernmar, a local Gothenburg politician, said: “It’s associated with higher costs, absolutely. It’s far too expensive to carry out a general shortening of working hours within a reasonable [period].”

Regardless of this setback, Bernmar still wants more tests conducted: "I personally believe in shorter working hours as a long-term solution.

"The richer we become, the more we need to take advantage of that wealth in other ways than through a newer car or higher consumption."

Proponents of the six-hour day - Roland Paulsen, Associate Senior Lecturer at Lund University, for example - claim that redced working days are needed as society becomes increasingly productive, making eight-hour days scarce. 

Musing on if this practice could be applied in the UK, Stephen Duignan, VP at LogMeIn, has previously said: “Constraining working times to a set schedule could pose risks for UK businesses. Closing a UK office at 4pm for example, would result in there being little or no live interaction with colleagues working on Pacific Standard Time.

“Given the desire among many workers to merge their work and private interactions into a more constant balance, a country that looks out to a global market should think differently to Sweden, where a rigid six-hour day could result in missed opportunities for personal and business growth.

“In tandem with better hours, HR departments should look to encourage the work-life balance on a more flexible basis by allowing the use of social media applications and personal email in the workplace.”

Ann Francke, Chief Executive of Chartered Management Institute, thinks it is unlikely that we will see six-hour day on these shores. She argues that it will be easier to tackle the 'always on' culture where staff constantly check emails etc. 

She adds: "This is having a deleterious effect on the health of managers, which also has a direct impact on productivity.

“UK workers have the longest hours in Europe and yet we’re less productive than our G7 European counterparts. Quality of leadership and management is the biggest factor in determining productivity. Good, skilled managers know that they need to switch off and empower their employees to do the same. As such, they strike the necessary work-life balance, which must be a priority for every organisation facing up to the challenge of improving productivity.”

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