Working for less time for the same pay sounds like a dream, right?
Well for a lot of Swedish professionals this has become a reality, as employers across Sweden have recently elected to introduce shorter working hours, replacing the standard 9-5 routine with a six hour working day.
They’ve come to this decision in a bid to improve employee productivity and offer a better work-life balance to their employees, which in turn will lead to a happier, more satisfied workforce. Rather than reducing workload, the idea is that staff will work more intensely for the time they are at work, so that they get more done in a shorter amount of time.
Trying to maintain focus for 8 hours a day isn’t an easy task, not to mention it can become exhausting. In fact people are working harder and longer than ever before and it could be taking a toll on their wellbeing.
So could a shorter working day be the answer?
People value time over money
Maintaining a good work life balance is a top priority for workers these days, especially among millennials. In the large part, people would rather have more free time to spend with their family and friends, than a higher salary. So wouldn’t it be nice to have our cake and eat it too?
A couple more hours of free time each day would mean that people have the chance to achieve their personal goals, as well as professional, such as picking up a new hobby or making time to exercise. It also offers working parents the opportunity to be there for their children more, as clocking off from work earlier would mean they are available for school runs etc., which will cut childcare costs too, which is an added bonus.
It will improve focus
Working eight hours a day doesn’t necessarily mean that we are doing more work than if we were in the office for less time. More often than not we are just stretching out our workload throughout the day, making us prone to getting distracted.
Procrastination gets the better of most of us at some point or another, especially if you’re working at a computer all day long, where the list of distractions is endless. Having said that, this commonly tends to be a mid-afternoon habit, so could the infamous 3pm slump be a thing of the past if these new working hours were introduced?
During an eight hour day we probably feel like we have the time to let our attention drift to other things, because time has a tendency to stand still as home time approaches, right? However if we had the pressure of completing our ‘To Do’s’ by 3pm, it would instil a sense of urgency in us to stay on task and quit our dilly dallying.
Better employee wellbeing
It’s hard to maintain your focus when energy is lacking and a long working day often means that employees come into work feeling drained, resulting in poor work performance and increased stress levels. In fact, it has been found that the cognitive impairment brought on from extreme tiredness is very similar to that triggered by alcohol, so you may as well be turning up to work drunk!
Shorter hours could lead to employees having the down time that they need to reenergise, thus arriving at the office feeling refreshed and energised (granted they don’t spend their extra free time partying). People who feel better in themselves will usually be more productive and driven in their jobs. Not to mention that conflict in the office is often caused by tiredness and irritability, so it could even be the making of a more harmonious working environment too!
It will benefit talent attraction and retention
A shorter working day could be what it takes to attract new employees and keep hold of your best staff! It’s a very attractive perk of a job and it could be the deciding factor that gives you one up on competing businesses.
Martin Banck, the managing director of a Toyota service centres in Gothenburg told the Guardian that he has found that turnover rates have reduced significantly since they move to a six hour day 13 years ago. He came to this decision after realising that employees were becoming stressed and making mistakes when their energy levels dropped and that working less hours meant that their work performance improved. As a result staff are happier and enjoy working for the company.
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