The six hour day: Should the UK follow Sweden’s example?

As many as 40 per cent of today’s under 35s would gladly take a pay cut if it meant they could work outside of the conventional nine to five parameters. Given these findings from join.me’s latest Mobile Usage Survey, adopting Sweden’s six hour day to get more done in a shorter space of time should be a clear-cut case.

Companies in Sweden that have been part of the experiment so far are beginning to see significant financial improvements since the change. For instance, Toyota centres in Gothenburg made the switch over a decade ago with the company now reporting happier staff, a lower turnover rate, and a 25 per cent growth in profit.

However, the foremost condition for transitioning to the six hour day is also the most alarming in terms of workplace productivity. Under the scheme, employees sacrifice social media apps and personal emails in the workplace, instead focusing 100 per cent of their attention on their work in return for reduced working hours.

Whilst some businesses might welcome this approach, more forward-looking teams will recognise the developments in working behaviours being made by mobile technology present challenges to Sweden’s work life model. In particular, under 35s want businesses to focus efforts on providing the flexibility to work when and how they want, with the tools they want to use, rather than simply limiting the number of hours in the office.

Before following Sweden’s example, businesses should consider implementing some essential, modern working behaviours before adopting the view that the six hour day is the answer to their productivity challenge.

Mobile collaboration

Today's workers are now collaborating while on-the-go and are very accustomed to living in a world of constant communication where rigid boundaries have yet to be drawn. For businesses, this carries huge benefits in terms of responsiveness to changes in the market and client demands, but this flexibility must be exchanged for greater freedom to balance work with personal communications. This means allowing social media and personal emails into the workplace.

Evidencing this, the join.me survey indicates 60 per cent of respondents communicate via text with their bosses and 81 per cent with other colleagues, suggesting a desire to merge work and private life to achieve a balance on a more 24/7 basis. Cutting employees off from social media and other forms of communication for six hours a day will almost certainly disrupt this trend and could damage many companies’ ability to retain talent.

Global interaction

As in Sweden, we live in a global economy where businesses can explore new markets at almost any stage in their development. Through laptops, tablets and mobile phones, co-workers that are half way around the world are no longer out of touch.

But constraining working times to set schedule could pose risks for UK businesses. Closing a UK office at 4pm for example, would result in there being little or no live interaction with colleagues working on Pacific Standard Time. Given the desire among many workers to merge their work and private interactions into a more constant balance, a country the looks out to a global market should think differently to Sweden, where a rigid 6 hour day could result in missed opportunities for personal and business growth.

Bring Your Own Applications (BYOA)

In tandem with smarter hours, business leaders should look to encourage the work life balance on a more flexible basis by allowing the use of applications and personal email in the workplace. Apps such as Evernote, Dropbox and Google Drive, can often introduce companies to new productivity tools that improve business functions across the board.

Besides the employee satisfaction, social media applications site like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are also becoming essential to functions like marketing, brand development and customer relations.

Companies that attempt to cut employees off from social media and other forms of communication for six hours a day will almost certainly damage their ability to build reputation and hold on to talent.

Stephen Duignan, VP at LogMeIn

Image source: Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images