reports on a group of Swedish nurses at a retirement home that are experimenting with a 6-hour work day, as opposed to the more (less in America these days) traditional 8-hour work day.
In February the nurses switched from an eight-hour to a six-hour working day for the same wage – the first controlled trial of shorter hours since a rightward political shift in Sweden a decade ago snuffed out earlier efforts to explore alternatives to the traditional working week.
“I used to be exhausted all the time, I would come home from work and pass out on the sofa,” says Lise-Lotte Pettersson, 41, an assistant nurse at Svartedalens care home in Gothenburg. “But not now. I am much more alert: I have much more energy for my work, and also for family life.”
This must cost their employers more money, right? Yes. Yes it does. But, you know, quality is worth something too.
“Since the 1990s we have had more work and fewer people – we can’t do it any more,” she says. “There is a lot of illness and depression among staff in the care sector because of exhaustion – the lack of balance between work and life is not good for anyone.”
Pettersson, one of 82 nurses at Svartedalens, agrees. Caring for elderly people, some of whom have dementia, demands constant vigilance and creativity, and with a six-hour day she can sustain a higher standard of care. “You cannot allow elderly people to become stressed, otherwise it turns into a bad day for everyone,” she says.
So, if people are not overrun by their jobs and have more time to care for their non-work lives, they'll still work and be productive and be happy? I don't know. These are old people and nurses. Get back to me when you're talking man stuff. Grease. Wrenches. Burping.
At Toyota service centres in Gothenburg, working hours have been shorter for more than a decade. Employees moved to a six-hour day 13 years ago and have never looked back. Customers were unhappy with long waiting times, while staff were stressed and making mistakes, according to Martin Banck, the managing director, whose idea it was to cut the time worked by his mechanics. From a 7am to 4pm working day the service centre switched to two six-hour shifts with full pay, one starting at 6am and the other at noon, with fewer and shorter breaks. There are 36 mechanics on the scheme.
“Staff feel better, there is low turnover and it is easier to recruit new people,” Banck says. “They have a shorter travel time to work, there is more efficient use of the machines and lower capital costs – everyone is happy.” Profits have risen by 25%, he adds.
There are drawbacks to this. It costs some money and CEOs cannot make 300 times more than their workforce if they do this.
You also may only be able to buy a new private jet once every ten years and not once every three years. I don't know about you, but I don't want to live in a country where I can't dream about owning more stuff than other people and then telling them they're lazy—even though the chances of me owning more stuff than them is a long shot. C'mon, Lotto!