Employers in Sweden were experimenting with six-hour work days in hopes of boosting productivity in the workplace. Requiring people to spend less time in the office and expecting more work to get done may seem counterintuitive, but according to new research, Sweden may be onto something. As Bloomberg reports, nurses who spent the last year working six-hour days were happier, more productive, and more energetic at work and at home.
The government-funded study was conducted by the Svartedalens retirement home in Gothenberg, Sweden, to see if reducing their 68 nurses’ hours would result in higher employee morale and better care for their patients. After a year, the results proved their instincts correct: Nurses were found to be 20 percent happier than a control group at a comparable facility. They also took half as many sick days and were 2.8 times less likely to take any time off at all in a two-week period. These positive effects allowed nurses to do 64 percent more activities with the residents than if they had been obligated to put in the extra hours.
Svartedalens isn’t the only Swedish company that’s been experimenting with shorter work days. A branch of Toyota also based in Gothenberg has been implementing 30-hour work weeks for over a decade, and the tech startup Brath also follows the same schedule. But, despite the growing data that says we should be doing the opposite, Americans are working more than anyone in the industrialized world. Taking a cue from Sweden could be good for us in more ways than one: In addition to improving productivity, working less may also improve our health.