A six-hour working day results in happier and healthier employees. It also leads to a higher quality of welfare services and a more sustainable and equal labour market. Despite what some news reports may have indicated, these are the findings from Sweden’s trial of six-hour working days.
A shorter working day is often portrayed as a utopian dream that would be too costly to realise, much as previous work reforms were portrayed in the past. But what if working less is the key to a more sustainable working life?
For the past two years the Swedish city of Gothenburg has undertaken a trial of a six-hour working day at a care home for elderly people. The aim was to find out how it would impact on health and life quality for assistant nurses, as well as the broader socioeconomic benefits and the possibility of creating jobs.
The preliminary results show that a shorter working day lowered sick leave by 10%. Also, the perceived health of the care workers increased considerably in relation to stress and alertness. This was especially apparent in child-caring age groups. Having longer to recuperate and spend time with family is evidently an important factor in creating a sustainable work-life balance.
Residents in the care home also felt they were getting better care and more time with the nurses. In interviews they described staff as more alert and happier. Social activities dramatically increased too, meaning that the higher level of alertness is being put to good use by the staff.