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Sweden Introduces the 6hr Work Day. Here’s Why The Rest of Us Should Consider it Too

Posted by on November 10, 2015 in Conscious Living, Thrive with 27 Comments

Smiling peopleAaron Moritz |

Let’s just admit it. Most of us hate our jobs. Only about 31% of Americans feel “enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace”. Even for people who do get to work doing something they enjoy, the idea of doing it for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for the rest of our lives can feel like an early death sentence.

Related Article: The 40-Hour Work Week is Not Just Bad for You, But Also Bad for Business

One country has decided to do something about it. Sweden, in keeping with their history of progressive social policy, has begun the shift to a 6 hour work day, with many of their largest employers already implementing the stress-reducing policy — and loving the results.

Linus Feldt, who heads up a large Scandinavian app development firm, Filimundus, had this to say:

“To stay focused on a specific work task for 8 hours is a huge challenge. In order to cope, we mix in things and pauses to make the work day more endurable. At the same time, we are finding it hard to manage our private life outside of work. We want to spend more time with our families, we want to learn new things or exercise more. I wanted to see if there could be a way to mix these things.”

It’s Not Just Possible, It’s Necessary

In places like North America, the idea of the 8 hour workday is so entrenched that it seems like physics, an unavoidable fact of life, but nothing could be further from the truth.

When Henry Ford introduced the 8 hour workday at all of his factories in 1914, just 100 years ago, he faced a similar sort of skepticism that reducing from 10-16 hour work days was even possible. That, however, was quickly overcome as the success and benefits of his decision became obvious, and others started copying his methods.

One thing that our time has in common with Ford’s, is that labor saving devices are rapidly moving into many sectors of the economy. Self-driving carstouch-screen kiosksautomated restaurantswarehouse robots, and many more advances are making it so that there is simply less stuff for people to do. Which is a very good thing, or can be, if we organize so that people can work less, rather than simply accepting ever increasing unemployment.

Eminent philosopher, mathematician, and social critic Bertrand Russell argued in his 1932 essay ‘In Praise of Idleness, that we should actually switch to a 4 hour workday, saying:

If the ordinary wage-earner worked four hours a day, there would be enough for everybody and no unemployment — assuming a certain very moderate amount of sensible organization. This idea shocks the well-to-do, because they are convinced that the poor would not know how to use so much leisure.

The benefits of a shortened work day are numerous and varied, and are something we should all take note of:

Reduced Stress, Better Health

A recent Lancet Study that looked at over 600,000 people found that the more we work, the more likely we are to have a stroke! People who worked 41-48 hours per week had a 10% higher chance of getting a stroke than people who worked 35-40 hours, and people who worked more than 55 hours chances were 33% higher! They also had an increased risk of coronary artery disease.

This makes sense because both heart disease and stroke are tied to stress, and if there’s one that causes stress, it’s work. Especially working long hours. Also, unless we are over 50, chances are that our work requires us to get up earlier than we should, and proper sleep is essential to good health and effective stress management. Coupled with what might be a long commute, after work errands, and eating / preparing meals, often all we have time for at the end of the day is zoning out in front of our TV, resting up in preparation to do it all again.

Related Article: Sweden Shifts to a 6-Hour Work Day – Should This Be the New Norm?

Another Swedish workplace that has made the switch is Svartedalens Care Home in Gothenburg. “There is a lot of illness and depression among staff in the care sector because of exhaustion” says Ann-Charlotte Dahlbom Larsson, head of elderly care. “The lack of balance between work and life is not good for anyone.”

“I used to be exhausted all the time,” Lise-Lotte Pettersson, a nurse at the home, says. “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.”

Better Relationships

2002 study at the University of Maryland demonstrated what we all instinctively know, finding that “long hours at work increase work-family conflict and that this conflict is in turn related to depression and other stress-related health problems.”

Having quality time to spend with our friends and family can feel like a luxury when the treadmill of the 8 hour workday rules our lives. The absence of that quality time can come at the cost of our precious connections to the ones we love, and having two more hours in a day can make a huge difference.

Toyota Service Centers in Gothenburg made the switch to the 6-hour work day almost 13 years ago, moving from a 7am – 4pm workday to using two 6-hour shifts, at full pay. This allows Sandra Andersson, 25, to hold down a ‘full time’ job, and also spend quality time with her family.

“Before I started a family I could go to the beach after work – now I can spend the afternoon with my baby,” she said.

The 6-hour work day would be a massive boon to overstressed, overworked families in many countries.

Increased Productivity

The idea that a shorter work day could maintain, let alone actually increase, productivity might sound far fetched, but there is reason to believe this intuition may be fundamentally incorrect. Roland Paulsen, who studies business administration at the University of Lund, points out that history shows consistent increases in productivity, coupled with decreases in work. For over a century, our amount of work steadily decreased, and it’s only recently that trend has reversed.

“Productivity has doubled since the 1970s,” he says, “so technically we even have the potential for a four-hour working day. It is a question of how these productivity gains are distributed. It did not used to be utopian to cut working hours – we have done this before.”

Linus Feldt, CEO of Filimundus, had this to say: “My impression now [that we have a 6-hour work day] is that it is easier to focus more intensely on the work that needs to be done, and you have the stamina to do it, and still have energy left when leaving the office.”

When Henry Ford introduced the 8-hour workday in 1914, against great skepticism, what actually happened was that these same workers, in less time, produced greater output. Ford’s profit margins had doubled within two years.


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27 Reader Comments

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  1.' Kelly Klette says:

    It would be great as long we also got the same pay for an 8 hr shift.

    •' Adam Foley says:

      they might not get paid by the hour, might just be yearly salary so pay wud remain the same, that wud be awesome, i work 8.5 hours x 5 and it sucks!! work = paid Slavery 🙁

  2.' Mark Treat says:

    LoL… a tiny SOCIALIST country.

    Sweden’s economy doesn’t compare to U.S.

  3.' Sue Watson says:

    Fair for all to be in a job instead of others getting overtime when high unemployment

  4.' Gilda Condurache says:

    Wonderful news!

  5.' Ron Morina says:

    Yes for the bosses not for we workers I live here.

    •' Sarah Waterman Lee says:

      Set the record straight! I read these articles, as do many, not knowing the truth. I’ve recently befriended people from countries all over the world on Facebook and the conversations about the perceptions and ideas of other countries is horribly askew when compared with what each of us thought. Media propaganda to blame for that!
      It even happens with people who live inn other states. Best source of information are people living in the situation.

  6.' Gina Richardson says:

    I think a 4 day work week, gives people more time off

  7.' Michelle Wilson says:

    Wonder how they’re doing with all their new “immigrants?”

  8.' Being Jabari Jones says:

    Makes sense to me

  9.' John Copelan says:

    This sounds warm and fuzzy, but, who the hell
    Is going to keep things going while everyone else thinks about getting off work.

  10.' Patricia Cameron says:

    Great idea!

  11.' Cindy Dorsey says:

    Will I still get paid for 8??

  12.' Rau Lin says:

    I want to go and live in Sweden!

  13.' Marilyn Letheby says:

    Our corporate America would never support such a policy!

  14.' Ron Ancell says:

    Maybe sometime in the near future we could just send a postcard into work that we did 30 hours at home thinking about work and pick up our check for each week from the Postman when he delivers the mail.
    Times are so difficult for the working man nowadays !

    •' Em Griesbach says:

      lol! Are you actually implying that work is easy, and people are lazy in the slave system that is capitalism??

    •' Alessandra Fissinger says:

      Future?! Politicians do this now! Except they probably send a memo electronically, and have direct deposit, they don’t have to wait for no stinking mailman.

  15.' Danielle Skodak says:

    I’ll take the 6 hour day AND the pay cut that comes with it. Its worth my time and sanity.

  16.' Joe Holzer says:

    … click fodder…. has everyone got 666 people likeing it before them ? …. sad trick….

  17.' Zen Hec Ryan says:

    Do something you love and you won’t care how long you work

  18.' Agnes Tan says:

    Wow,balance work and family life. So nice!

  19.' Thomas Rooney says:

    sounds like a great idea….and bring the retirement age forward too…lol

  20.' Md Anwar hosen says:

    hi sir how are you sir can you help me visa please any work noproblem maybe house cleaning official cleaning hotel room cleaning noproblem please help me

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