Full-time work typically consists of eight-hour workdays, whatever your profession. Working ‘nine-to-five’, 5 days a week- what a way to make a living eh? Long eight-hour days can be exhausting, stressful and draining day-in-day-out, making you count down to the weekend from halfway through the week. Of course, some professions allow for shorter days or employees to work on flexitime contracts, while others, like those who work in healthcare, require longer shifts.

We’d all appreciate shorter work days, allowing us time to recharge before the next, and to this end a Swedish study recently trialled six-hour workdays, testing whether they can actually work effectively.  The study was conducted over 23 months, from February 2015 to December of last year, in which Swedish nurses working in a care home for the elderly worked 30 hour weeks instead of 40 hour weeks.  The work-life of a nurse, or anyone in healthcare, is said to be stressful, and so making work-days two hours shorter should relieve some stress for employees.

The results of the $1.3 million trial revealed that the six-hour work day was, as expected, beneficial on employees and the workforce as a whole. Sick days and absences decreased by 4.7%, and more than half said they had energy after their shift compared to only 1 in 5 eight-hour workers. That energy at the end of their shift could be used productively, like being active or sociable, instead of resting sore feet in front of the sofa all evening.

Overall, employees were happier, healthier and more energetic at work when working six-hour days, able to therefore offer a better service and be more productive. However the shorter shift-approach did come at a cost, with the Swedish government having to hire 17 additional employees to cover shifts. Yet the positive of this is that this created jobs, and if all industries took this approach, unemployment rates would decrease.

So, would six-hour days work in an office environment? Office workers spend much of their days sat in front of a screen or participating in meetings, which eight-hours a day, five days a week, can be draining on the brain, the eyes and the body, causing chronic injuries like back-pain from sitting all day.

Modern approaches to increasing productivity and combatting fatigue in the office are popular. Features such as sleep pods, adjusting-light technologies and general promotion of healthy living are working their way into offices, with employee well-being becoming increasingly recognised as an influencing factor on productivity.  The ‘healthy office building’ of Arup in Boston operates policies like prohibiting the use of technology to access work emails after midnight, in order to promote sufficient sleep for employees.

While the six-hour day is likely to allow workers to be happier and healthier at work, each workforce will opt for approaches that suit them to ensure productivity. Some employees may not be able to afford to live off 30-hour per week wages, and similarly, companies may not have the budget to hire extra staff. That’s why the many choose the options just mentioned (sleep pods etc.) to maintain or boost productivity, while workers work long days with less fatigue.

Laura Sewell

An aspiring journalist, Laura is our content writer intern.  Pop-punk gig-goer and drag queen enthusiast, Laura is working her way into the industry with an English A -Level and love of writing about anything and everything in tow.
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