Sweden Experiments with 30-Hour Work Week

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Sweden has a lot to offer—universal health care, beautiful countryside, and a healthy economy, to name a few of its perks. A new reason to envy the country? Lately, some of its employers have implemented a 6-hour workday, using the shortened afternoons as a way to test whether employee morale—and productivity—will improve.

The 8-hour workday was created during the 19th century, thanks to unions. But CEOs and public sector officials alike have reevaluated it in recent years, noting that the typical 9-to-5 has become bloated with emails, meetings, and social media. As employees spend more time at the office, they’re losing out on bonding with family members, getting less sleep, and generally burning out. They argue that by working smarter—not longer—it’s possible to achieve a balance.

Stockholm-based app developer Filimundus is one company that has taken the leap, along with tech startup Brath. Toyota Services in Gothenburg reportedly cut back to a 30-hour week years ago. And in February, a government-run Swedish retirement company began experimenting with 6-hour days, saying the increased costs balanced out because the nurses were less exhausted—and better at their jobs. 

Don't start planning a move to Sweden just yet, though. As Fast Company points out, in the 1990s, other Swedish retirement homes and daycares tried 6-hour days and found them too expensive. (The jury’s still out on the current nursing home experiment; official results won’t be available until 2016.) And as CNN reports, most companies in Sweden still adhere to 40-hour work weeks.

According to a 2014 Gallop poll, the average American employee works an average of 47 hours a week. Even if our bosses don’t follow Sweden’s lead, we can still try to scale back our hours—or at least realize that life shouldn’t begin and end in the office.

[h/t Fast Company]