We heard about the change Sweden was making for workers a few months ago: 6 hour work days for all! This recent article from the BBC discusses some of the changes noticed in workplaces who have implemented this policy on shorter work days.
The article highlights that various industries have tried out the schedule changes, including a car company, hospitals, media start-ups and retirement homes. All have seen positive change in their workers productivity, absenteeism and missed days, although for some companies it is still early days and too soon for firm conclusions to be drawn.
With our knowledge of workplace mental health, these seemingly positive results make perfect sense (and make us want to move to Sweden). With a shorter time frame to complete work, workers are forced to be efficient and focused. A culture that supports 6 hour days emphasizes that when people are working, they are working, and when they are not working, they shouldn't be expected to be answering emails or calls. Work-life balance is enhanced when everyone has the same expectations of work hours and these schedule changes can make positive changes elsewhere in people's lives too.
It seems hard to imagine our own workplaces, or the workplaces of friends and family adapting to a 6 hour work day, considering the long hours and constant emails that are common with so many jobs today. If the idea seems too far fetched for your current work environment, think about how you can make changes.
Can you try to be very efficient and challenge yourself to see if you can get the same amount of work done in less time? Can you set expectations at the office regarding off-hour emailing? Can you schedule fun events after work so you have to leave at a certain time? See other posts on work-life-balance for ideas.
There is some inspiration from Sweden's new policies, even if the full blown schedule changes don't seem realistic for your workplace or our Canadian corporate environment.
Let us know your thoughts on what you would do with a shorter work day in the comments below!