Why a six-hour working day just won’t work

As employees around the world continue to chase the notoriously sought-after work/life balance, Sweden is leading the way by implementing a six-hour working day.


The Scandinavian country is already renowned for its family-friendly policies, and Sweden has now changed the structure of its working day under the premise that workers will be more focused and productive at work. The theory goes that, if workers have more time to spend with family and doing the things they love, they’ll be more productive at work.

There’s no denying that it sounds like a great idea, but the fact is that a six-hour working day just doesn’t make sense. Put simply, one of the so-called positive aspects of the six-hour working day is that it allows staff to be more productive in the long run. But the truth is that, actually, a six-hour day won’t necessarily address the problem. Staff should already be working at optimal productivity; workers certainly shouldn’t be on social media or dealing with personal tasks during their working day.

Productivity should already be high

At CV-Library, employees are not permitted to use mobile phones or the internet for personal use during the day; staff arrive at 9am, take a one hour break at 1pm, and leave at 5.30 pm. Staff here don’t work overtime, and the offices are often locked by 6pm; as a result, workers benefit from a structured day and work-free evenings, while the company benefits from full productivity. Ultimately, businesses shouldn’t be sacrificing working hours to keep their staff happy. If your employees seem to be struggling with productivity and motivation, there may be another cause for the problem. Introducing new measures such as personal targets could be a much simpler way to keep staff productive; staff incentives are an effective alternative to cutting the number of hours they’re working.

A financial disaster could be imminent

The business would also have to consider the financial implications of a shortened working day; if you cut a worker’s hours, will this affect their pay? If the six-hour day were to work, in that it does increase productivity, then staff would presumably still be expecting the same salary. In fact, some may even expect a rise in pay if their output increases dramatically. Alternatively, if a business is already running on optimum productivity, a cut-back of working hours would essentially see a drop in the amount of work being done. If this is the case, businesses might start to question whether they should be paying their staff less for producing less work. Whichever way the subject is approached, there is a real risk of serious financial fallout.

Stress levels will heighten

A recent survey of ours revealed that 1 in 4 UK professionals have needed to take time off work due to stress. Meaning that staff are already working tirelessly, some for 10 or more hours a day, and it is unlikely to be of any benefit to them if they are then told to do the same amount of work in even less time. Ultimately, stress can be a huge cost for businesses if not dealt with properly, and the introduction of a six-hour working day is likely to cause more problems than it solves.

What’s the real problem?

If staff productivity is proving to be a problem, employers need to ask themselves if the working hours are really to blame. There are so many factors involved when it comes to workforce motivation, that it is difficult, if not impossible, to directly relate working hours to employee output. Before cutting down the working day, there are numerous approaches that employers could take to boost employee motivation. Offering current employees the option of having a workplace mentor, or enrolling them in new training programmes, are simple ways of keeping morale high; a key factor when considering staff output – happy employees tend to be more productive.

Fundamentally it’s important to understand that the six-hour working day is a blanket approach that is unlikely to suit everyone; each sector and business will have to find the solution that works best for them. Enforcing a strict six-hour day could work well for some industries, but it could also have drastic implications for others; there really is no one-size-fits-all solution.

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