For the past two years, employees in a municipal retirement home in Gothenburg—one of Sweden’s largest cities—worked a six-hour workday, with no decrease in pay, as an experiment in workplace happiness and satisfaction. New nursing positions were created to handle the deficit in hours.
It’s probably no surprise that, at the conclusion of the trial last week, employees claimed to be more efficient and energetic at work, called in sick 15 percent less and perceived themselves to be 20 percent healthier. “The trial showed that there are many benefits of a shorter working day,” said Daniel Bernmar, the leader of the Left party on Gothenburg’s City Council in an article published in the New York Times. “They include healthier staff, a better work environment and lower unemployment.”
But while the project may be a social success, the price tag to implement the program across the country is just too high at this point. In this small experiment alone, the cost of hiring extra nurses topped more than $730,000 CAD. The financial consideration means that a shortened workweek doesn’t have many supporters in high places; even the current government doesn’t back the idea.
It has sparked a discussion about work-life balance, though, and the benefits of a shorter working day, and many companies are looking at ways to improve employee happiness as a way to increase productivity.
While Canada doesn’t have any plans to shorten the workday nationwide, some businesses—in sectors where employee tasks are easily portable—are exploring the idea of flex hours. Even if your employer doesn’t outwardly advertise their support of flexible scheduling, it can’t hurt to ask for work-from-home days or modified work hours, if you know the accommodation will help you be a more effective employee.
You can also consider moving to France, Italy or Germany, where flex working hours are more accepted. Because that’s the only reason to try a few years abroad in a gorgeous European country, right?