Swedish Company Drops Workdays By 25 Percent, Profits Rise 25 Percent

gothenburg sweden flickr

Guess what? When you ask people to work shorter workdays, they are often—wait for it—more productive.

That’s what a handful of Swedish companies are discovering, as they transition from an eight-hour workday to a six-hour one.

I first saw this story on Death and Taxes, which reminds us:

Much like the two-day weekend, the eight-hour work day was a safeguard won by the labor movement to protect workers from being driven into the ground by inhumane workdays of up to 16 hours. The eight hour work day was meant to be a limit, not a goal. And certainly not an ideal.

I feel like I ought to add “the eight hour work day was meant to be a limit, not a goal” to the list of sentences I am willing to have tattooed on my body.

How are Swedish workers responding to their shorter workday? The Guardian explains:

“I used to be exhausted all the time, I would come home from work and pass out on the sofa,” says Lise-Lotte Pettersson, 41, an assistant nurse at Svartedalens care home in Gothenburg. “But not now. I am much more alert: I have much more energy for my work, and also for family life.”

The Guardian states that this is “the first controlled trial of shorter hours since a rightward political shift in Sweden a decade ago snuffed out earlier efforts to explore alternatives to the traditional working week.” It also notes that a Swedish Toyota service center that independently switched to a six-hour work day back in 2002 has since seen profits rise 25 percent. It’s interesting how the two numbers match; cut the workday by 25 percent, see profits rise by 25 percent.

Will other Swedish companies be able to keep their six-hour workday for as long as the Toyota service center has kept theirs? The Guardian is doubtful:

Despite the positive signs, the experiment is likely to end next year—the centre-left coalition on Gothenburg council has lost its majority, and the Conservatives and Liberals are firmly opposed to reduced working hours.

BUT PROFITS, I want to say. However, it’s not as simple as that; a Toyota service center might see profits rise, but The Guardian states that other types of businesses, such as healthcare centers, are just as likely to lose money by cutting staff down to six hour shifts.

So far, the companies involved are happy to provide better working environments for their staff, and the healthcare centers argue that their staff is providing better care to patients—but we’ll have to see what happens next year.

Photo credit: Tony Webster

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