Sweden is soon to launch an experiment to find out the effects that a 6 hour work day (as opposed to an 8 hour work day) would have. The test has been launched to see if the benefits that some claim can be gained from implementing a 6 hour workday are present. However, to truly see the difference in workers, perhaps it’s not a 6 hour work day that is needed, but advice on how to disconnect from work while on holiday and at home.
A 6 Hour Work Day?
An arguably lucky group of Swedish government workers in Gothenburg are going to start a yearlong experiment working 6 hours a day beginning July 1st. As it is an experiment there must be another group who will be working 8 hours a day. The experiment has been brought about due to the idea that people who work less hours are more productive as they are more awake, suffer from less fatigue and have fewer stress related problems. The workers will take less breaks, sick days and overall just be much more efficient workers. According to Gothenburg City Councillor, Mats Pilhelm, "People have long work lives, and it’s necessary to think of ways to create a more humane environment for them in the workplace,"
The experiment does have its opponents who feel that the idea of a 6 hour workday is nothing more than a left wing fantasy. They see the idea as dangerous and point to evidence from previous experiments in both Sweden and France which showed having a 6 hour work day had no significant effect on health. Opponents argue that as the work would be more intensive during a six hour workday with fewer breaks it could lead to even more stress related problems.
Disconnecting From Work is Key
There is another point which neither side are taking proper account of: the lack of disconnect that modern workers have from their workplace. Many workers fail to properly take their mind off work once they leave the office. At home they are either worried about their job security or they are still working at home and checking emails. Roughly 40% of all UK workers never take all their annual leave as they feel that it will make them look uncommitted to their job. Many of the workers who do actually take their holidays spend a large amount of it checking emails or answering text and phone calls from work.
The time that people need to be spending with their families and relaxing is being taken over by work as people are feeling increasing pressure. So perhaps this is where the true problem lies.
For the foreseeable future, the 8 hour workday is going to remain the norm no matter what the outcome of the experiment. However, if the experiment is a failure then perhaps the answer to happier less stressed workers lies in not how long we work but rather our ability to disconnect from the office once we walk out the door.