Sweden Has Embarked on an Experiment That Could Transform Workplace Productivity

Sweden Has Embarked on an Experiment That Could Transform Workplace Productivity

As the end of a long workday approaches, you just want to get home and wind down. It's hard to focus when your mind is already on making dinner, hanging out with friends, doing chores or continuing your Netflix marathon. More often than not, you might just sit at your desk, procrastinating and counting down the minutes. But would getting rid of that last hour or two of work make you more efficient?

That's what a city in Sweden is trying to find out. Gothenburg, the second largest city in the country, is embarking on a workplace experiment to see whether six-hour workdays will make its city employees more efficient. Two departments in the municipal council will participate in the experiment: One will serve as the control group and work the standard seven-hour workdays, and one will only work six hours. Both groups will be paid the same wage.

"We'll compare the two afterwards and see how they differ. We hope to get the staff members taking fewer sick days and feeling better mentally and physically after they've worked shorter days," said Gothenburg Deputy Mayor Mats Pilhem.

In addition to improving employee health, authorities also hope that the move will create more jobs and encourage people to work more efficiently. The experiment is still waiting on a final approval from the municipal council. If it goes through, researchers will monitor the performance of the employees over a year. Already, other cities in Sweden are considering doing the same.

Sweden is far from the only place that is considering a six-hour workday; a similar experiment took place in Finland and found success. But despite the proven benefits of a shorter workday, the idea has yet to catch on in the U.S.

According to data compiled by the Economist and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, among the world's top economies, America is one of the worst offenders when it comes to long workdays. The same study also found that the more you work, the more your productivity goes down.


Image Credit: The Economist

So the next time you're Gchatting your friends or playing an iPhone game until the clock runs out, think how much better things would be if America tried Sweden's experiment.

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Eileen Shim

Eileen is a writer living in New York. She studied comparative literature and international studies at Yale University, and enjoys writing about the intersection of culture and politics.

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