Swedes Share The Benefits Of Working Six-Hour Days

"Everybody was happy"

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Employees who trialled a six-hour working day in Gothenburg, Sweden, have opened up about the two-year experiment. It turns out, working fewer hours on full pay went down pretty well with those who took part.

In February 2015, a group of nurses at the Svartedalens retirement home switched from an eight-hour to a six-hour working day for the same wage. After the trial ended in January, initial results suggest the reduction in hours had a positive impact on the nurses' level of care as well as their own health.

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According to one nurse, returning to an eight-hour shift after two years of shorter days has been a difficult adjustment.

"I feel that I am more tired than I was before," Emilie Telander, 26, told the BBC. "During the trial all the staff had more energy. I could see that everybody was happy."

Lise-Lotte Pettersson, a 41-year-old assistant nurse at Svartedalens, also said the shorter hours helped to boost her energy level.

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"I used to be exhausted all the time," she told The Guardian. I would come home from work and pass out on the sofa. But not now. I am much more alert; I have much more energy for my work, and also for family life."

Gothenburg, Sweden

The full results from the trial are due to be released next month, but the initial findings support the nurses' comments. During the first 18 months, those working shorter hours logged less sick leave and said they felt healthier. Their productivity also saw a lift, with 85% more activities organised for their patients.

However, the project has also been criticised since it came to an end, due to the huge financial burden. Multiple reports claim it cost the city around 12 million kronor (£1 million) over the two-year duration.

"Could we do this for the entire municipality? The answer is no, it will be too expensive," Daniel Bernmar," a Left Party councillor told the BBC.

However, Bernmar added that the welfare benefits of this scheme shouldn't be ignored. "It's put the shortening of the work day on the agenda both for Sweden and for Europe, which is fascinating," he added.

"In the past 10, 15 years there's been a lot of pressure on people working longer hours and this is sort of the contrary of that."

While a six-hour working day is never going to be accessible to every job sector, other Swedish municipalities are said to be planning similar, locally-funded trials which target employees with high levels of burnout. It doesn't look like reduction in working hours is going to get the go-ahead at national level, but a study which aims to improve work-life balance is surely one that's worth pursuing.