Swedes Give 6-Hour Workday a Try

Sweden offers one of the most generous maternity leave policies in the world and when its citizens want to criticize unfair work policies, they apparently do so in viral videos. If that weren't enough to make you think about moving, here's the latest work-friendly policy in action: municipal staff in Gothenburg, Sweden's second-largest city, are test-driving a six-hour work day -- for the same pay as an eight-hour day.

Gothenburg 

(Photo Credit: Daniel Sjostrom/Flickr)

Two departments will take part in the experiment. One will work the standard day, and the other a reduced schedule.

"We'll compare the two afterwards and see how they differ," says Mats Pilhem, Left Party deputy mayor of Gothenburg. "We hope to get the staff members taking fewer sick days and feeling better mentally and physically after they've worked shorter days."

Critics of the plan claim that it's a "dishonest and populist ploy" to win voter sympathy before upcoming elections, but Pilhem remains firm in his claim that the goal is to increase productivity and create more jobs. Sweden's English-language news site The Local points out that the six-hour work day has been tried out before in that country, without catching on.

Still, there's some evidence that a shorter day could, as Pilhem claims, boost efficiency and productivity, as well as win voters' hearts. Research has shown that knowledge workers -- basically, everyone who works in an office, on a computer, instead of doing other types of labor -- are only good for about six hours of their typically eight-plus-hour shifts. After that, you're basically just holding down a chair.

Maybe it's time for the US to give the six-hour day a try.

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