Opinion

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Sweden’s six-hour workday? No, thank you

5 Mins

Already renowned as a country with family-friendly policies, Sweden has changed the structure of its working day under the premise that workers will be more focused and productive at work, as a result of having more time to spend with family and doing the things they love.

While at first glance it might seem like a great idea, the fact is that a six-hour working day just doesn’t make sense. 

What we need to be aware of is the fact that one of the so-called positive aspects of the six-hour working day is that it allows staff to be more productive in the long run; the truth is that, actually, a six-hour day won’t necessarily address the problem. Staff should already be working at optimal productivity, and workers shouldn’t be on social media or dealing with personal tasks during their working hours. 

Productivity should already be high

At CV-Library, my employees are not permitted to use mobile phones or the internet for personal use during the day; staff arrive at 9am, take a one hour break at 1pm, and leave at 5.30 pm. 

As a result, workers benefit from a structured day, while the business benefits from full productivity; businesses shouldn’t be sacrificing working hours to keep staff satisfied. If workers are struggling with productivity and motivation, there could be another cause for the problem. 

Introducing new measures such as person-specific targets and incentives could be a much simpler way to keep staff productive; you don’t have to cut the number of hours they’re working.

Stress levels will heighten

Furthermore, a recent survey of ours revealed that one in four UK professionals have needed to take time off work due to stress. 

Workplace stress is becoming increasingly common among the country’s workers; if staff are already working tirelessly, some for 10 or more hours a day, it is unlikely to be of any benefit to them if they are then told to do the same amount of work in even less time.

Ultimately, stress can be a huge cost for businesses if not dealt with correctly, and the introduction of a six-hour working day would likely cause more problems than it solves. 

There could be a financial disaster

Next, the business would have to consider the financial implications of a shortened working day; if you start cutting a worker’s hours, how will this affect their pay? 

If the six-hour day were to, in fact, increase productivity, then staff would presumably still be expecting the same salary; some may even expect a rise in pay if their output is increasing dramatically. 

Alternatively, if a business is already running on optimum productivity, a cut-back of working hours would essentially see a drop in the amount of work being done. Should this happen, businesses might start to question whether they should be paying their staff less, for producing less work; potentially causing huge problems further down the line. Either way, there is a real risk of serious financial fallout. 

Get to the root of the problem

If staff productivity is proving to be an issue, businesses need to ask themselves if the working hours are really to blame. There are so many factors involved when it comes to workforce motivation, that it is difficult to directly relate working hours to employee output.

Before cutting down the working day, there are a variety of approaches that employers could take to boost motivation levels. Offering current employees the option of having a workplace mentor, or enrolling them in learning and development programmes, are simple ways of keeping morale high; a key factor when considering staff output – happy employees are generally more productive. 

Fundamentally it’s important to understand that the six-hour working day is a blanket approach that won’t suit everyone; each sector and business will have to find the solution that works best for them. 

Enforcing a strict six-hour day could work well for some industries, but it could also have drastic implications for others; there really is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Lee Biggins is founder and managing director of CV Library.

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