Happier and more productive employees – Sweden’s six hour work day

The eight-hour day movement had its origins in the Industrial Revolution in Britain, where industrial production in large factories involved working from ten to sixteen hours for six days a week.

In 1817 Robert Owen formulated the goal of the eight-hour day and coined the slogan: ‘Eight hours labour, Eight hours recreation, Eight hours rest’. Interestingly employers found that when employee working hours dropped from ten or twelve to eight hours per day there was no drop off in productivity or production.

On January 5, 1914, the Ford Motor Company took the radical step of doubling pay to $5 a day and cut the standard work day to eight hours. This increased Ford’s productivity, and the company profits went from $30 million to $60 million in two years.

Sweden is moving towards a six hour working day. The theory behind the shift to a shorter working day is that businesses will ultimately reap the financial benefits of having happier employees who are more focused and productive during the time they are at their jobs. Stockholm-based app developer Filimundus switched to a six-hour day last year and found productivity had stayed the same, while there were fewer conflicts because workers were happier and more rested.

The average Australian works eight point six four hours (8.64) every day. Of course, there are big differences in efficiency and productivity between employees. Australians are working longer, not smarter and have had poor productivity growth for the last fifteen years. Businesses and employees need to focus on the quality of the output, not the hours worked. Customer communication and problem solving activities are sub-optimal when workers are fatigued either physically or emotionally.


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