It may never be feasible in the US, but the findings could make us think differently about our work-life balance.
Workers in the caring profession in Sweden recently finished a two-year trial in which they were paid their normal full-time salary to work just six hours a day. When’s the next flight to Sweden, you ask?! But in a sector that has difficulties finding new recruits, the researchers wanted to examine the level of well-being and overall productivity among 70 staff.
Some of the test participants were nurses from a retirement home, and early feedback shows that during the trial they “logged less sick leave, reported better perceived health and boosted their productivity by organizing 85 percent more activities for their patients, from nature walks to sing-a-longs.” An assistant nurse, Emilie Telander, noted, “During the trial all the staff had more energy. I could see that everybody was happy.” She added that returning to 8-hour days will prove very tiring and difficult for her work-life balance, with less time to be with her 4-year-old daughter.
On paper, the reduced hours system seems great: it benefits both employees and those being cared for—there’s nothing better than thinking of our elderly loved ones getting quality care. Yet, despite the project showing real benefits in productivity, and boosting unemployment to make up the staffing levels, there were financial costs — $1.3 million for the supplementary staff and administration of the test — met by the taxpayer.
For now, it’s a project that cannot be maintained financially or rolled out on a national level, but as Daniel Bernmar, head of elderly care in Gothenburg says, it clearly shows the importance of “fueling global debates about work culture.” And once the experiment’s results are studied in more detail there could be a shift in priorities for greater quality work and happier staff. Maybe we’ll get to see a gradual implementation in the 6-hour day over Europe that may one day spread to North America.
But for now let’s dream a little … If we (dads included!) found ourselves working just 6 hours each day, here’s a list of just the obvious extra things we could do that would benefit those around us:
1. Spend time with older relatives
2. Volunteer at a homeless shelter
3. Help organize events at church or in our local community
4. Adopt a healthier lifestyle: cook homemade meals, go to the gym, read a good book
5. Have family meals that last more than 15 minutes
6. De-Clutter your home and recycle your unwanted items or give to charity
7. Volunteer at your kids’ school
8. Visit the sick
9. Let your kids do more crafts at home (since we’ll have more time to clean up the mess)
10. Spend more time outdoors and breathe ….
If you had an extra two hours a day, what would you do? Let us know what you’d do in the comments below!