A group of nurses in a Swedish retirement house have experimented in only doing six-hour working days since February. The quality of their care has improved and their personal well-being is better.
The nurses get paid the same wage but now work two hours less per day. It is 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 traditional working weeks.
“Since the 1990’s we have had more work and fewer people, we can’t do it anymore,” Ann-Charlotte Dahlbom Larrson, head of elderly care at the home, told The Guardian. “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.”
Above: They retain a bit of time to have a dance with patients…
Meanwhile, over at Toyota in Gothenburg, working hours have been shorter for more than a decade there. Employees moved to six-hour days 13 years ago and have never looked back.
“Staff feel better, there is low turnover and it is easier to recruit new people,” the Toyota Managing Director 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.
The nursing home and Toyota have needed to hire more staff to cover all the hours, but it seems like that negative is outweighed by the positives.
Above: Martin Geborg, 27, a mechanic doing six-hour work days at Toyota, 6am to noon.
There is still a lot of politicising going on around this in Sweden, yet it seems the results coming in are looking great.
At the retirement home, Dahlbom Larsson is hopeful that change is in the air. “Something is about to happen in Sweden, definitely,” she says. “There is a lot of political interest, but also there is such an obvious lack of balance between work and life.”
I personally look forward to an era where we have three day work weeks at six hours a day globally. Yeah? Nah? Ok, three days might be getting a bit lazy. I’ll take four maximum.