By Lyndsey Hall
According to an international ranking by the Conference Board, Sweden is close to the top when it comes to productivity, coming 11th out of 61 countries. Britain came in 13th place, while the US was 3rd. Swedes also work less hours than Britain, the US, Chile and Mexico, to name but a few. The average Swede worked a total of 1,612 hours in 2012, while Brits worked 1,654 and Americans worked 1,790. The average Chilean worked 2,029, while Mexicans worked a whopping 2,226 hours!
But working less hours and being more productive than most of the world isn’t enough for Sweden; they could soon work even less hours, and potentially be even more productive. An experiment on civil servants in Gothenburg that started on July 1st has seen a group of workers in the elderly care sector work just 6 hours a day, while a control group continues to work the usual 8 hours. The experiment will run over the course of 1 year, and at the end of this time the Social Democrat-led municipal government will analyse the results to identify whether a 6 hour work day brings enough benefits, such as less unauthorised absences, to warrant becoming a permanent, national work schedule.
“People have long work lives, and it’s necessary to think of ways to create a more humane environment for them in the workplace” – Mats Pilhem, city councillor of the Left Party
Thanks, in part, to a well-educated workforce – Swedes start work later in life as they study longer than many nationalities – and being able to adapt quickly to new technologies, Sweden has managed to create an image of laid-back prosperity. But, the government of the city of Gothenburg believes that the nation’s productivity and prosperity could increase even further by reducing time spent at work. As well as a possible reduction in sick days, shorter working hours could result in greater efficiency at work due to fewer breaks; and less stress-related illnesses. A reduction in daily working hours could even result in workers continuing on past retirement age, as they are less likely to ‘burn out’.
Do you believe shorter working hours could benefit both employees and employers? What effect do you think a 6 hour day would have on the British economy? Tell us your thoughts in the Comments, or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.