It’s been 13 years since Toyota service centers in Sweden moved to a 6-hour workday and experienced 25-percent profit hike because of it, but the work-less-play-more fever is just starting to sweep the rest of the nation. Now that enough Swedes in different industries are experimenting with 30-hour workweeks (the U.S. average is 47), the world is taking notice and asking for feedback, which is a little murkier than one might expect.
The hope is that 6-hour days increase worker satisfaction, health, and focus to improve efficiency, retention, work quality, company reputation, and therefore profits, world peace, and free puppy dogs for everyone. Initial feedback is rife with predictable enthusiasm at experimental startups like Background AB, a Swedish graphic production company whose worker told BBC, “For me it’s absolutely fantastic. I have more spare time to train or to be outdoors while it is still daylight, or to do work in my garden.” One elderly care home started 6-hour days for its 80 nurses in February, and the consultant in charge of analyzing their data says, “Right now, we’re only looking at early indications, but we can see that the quality of work is higher.” But a closer look reveals a darker side of the shortened workday.
“They have the summer house, they have the boat, so in theory they’ve got all this stuff to help them relax but it just makes more work for them.”
Employees at Background AB are “asked to stay away from social media in the office and leave any personal calls or emails until the end of the day,” BBC reports. And after taking a mere hour-long lunch, the workers are required to “put in another 3 hours before heading back to their homes in the Swedish mountains.” One career coach expresses concern about the inevitable time management issues a 6-hour workday can cause for people: “They have the summer house, they have the boat, so in theory they’ve got all this stuff to help them relax but it just makes more work for them.” Worst of all, if too many companies adopt the policy, it may be impossible to get an email answered after 5 PM, when everyone is off pontooning with god knows who.
Where’s that world’s smallest violin when you need it?