May 21, 2016


In Sweden, an Experiment Turns Shorter Workdays Into Bigger Gains (LIZ ALDERMANMAY 20, 2016, NY Times)

Arturo Perez used to come home frazzled from his job as a caregiver at the Svartedalens nursing home. Eight-hour stretches of tending to residents with senility or Alzheimer's would leave him sapped with little time to spend with his three children.

But life changed when Svartedalens was selected for a Swedish experiment about the future of work. In a bid to improve well-being, employees were switched to a six-hour workday last year with no pay cut. Within a week, Mr. Perez was brimming with energy, and residents said the standard of care was higher.

"What's good is that we're happy," said Mr. Perez, a single father. "And a happy worker is a better worker." [...]

[C]oncerns have not deterred a growing number of small businesses in Sweden from testing the concept. Many found that a shorter workday can reduce turnover, enhance employee creativity and lift productivity enough to offset the cost of hiring additional staff.

"We thought doing a shorter workweek would mean we'd have to hire more, but it hasn't resulted in that because everyone works more efficiently," said Maria Brath, who founded an Internet search optimization start-up in Stockholm three years ago based on a six-hour day. The company, which has 20 employees, has doubled its revenue and profit each year.

"Since we work fewer hours, we are constantly figuring out ways to do more with our time," Ms. Brath said.

Sitting inside their airy office, Brath's employees checked off the ways. "We don't send unnecessary emails or tie ourselves up in meetings," said Thommy Ottinger, a pay-per-click specialist. "If you have only six hours to work, you don't waste your time or other people's time."

"It's kind of a life changer," he said, adding that the environment inspired fierce staff loyalty.

At Gothenburg's Sahlgrenska University Hospital, one of the biggest in Europe, officials have tried a similar approach to counter burnout and high absenteeism.

Last year, the orthopedics unit switched 89 nurses and doctors to a six-hour day. It hired 15 new staff members to make up for the lost time and extend operating room hours. At 1 million kroner (about $123,000) a month, the experiment was expensive, said Anders Hyltander, the executive director. But since then, almost no one calls in sick, and nurses and doctors have been more efficient.

"I had reached a point where I could only work at 80 percent capacity," said Gabrielle Tikman, a surgical nurse. "Now it's easier to rest and I have time at home to sit and really talk with my children. I've got my power back."

Posted by at May 21, 2016 8:31 AM