Have you ever found yourself checking your wrist-watch more than five times a minute, on a Monday afternoon? Do you rally through the work-day, telling yourself you only have five and a half hours to go till freedom? Do you wake up on some days and cry about the fact that you can only crawl into your bed, some twelve hours later?
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Join the club. You, like every other working professional, have days where the hours become significantly longer. Where eight hours seem to surpass even 24- before you can finally shut down your computer, pack your bags and go home. And in most cases, you are probably too exhausted by the end of your shift to do more than just kick off your shoes, change into your pyjamas and stare at your laptop till the first bells of sleep claim you for their own.
But what if, you didn’t have to rough it out for the traditional eight hours every day? What if, you were told that you could work six or lesser number of hours in a day- allowing you a significant amount of personal time? Would you begin to work with a new religious zeal? Is it possible, that you actually would begin to look forward to going to work?
According to a recent experiment, conducted by the Swedish government, this is very possible. Reports found that a shortened workday led to an overall increase in productivity. While their base-line was slightly narrow, with the experiment being conducted among 68 nurses working at Svartedalens retirement home. Their working hours were brought down to six, while still being paid their eight-hour salary. The principle behind the experiment holds true for almost all industries and professionals.
Statistically speaking, 50 per cent of the nurses expressed to have had more energy after a six-hour workday, compared to 20 per cent of the eight-hour workers. At the same time, a 4.7 per cent reduction in total sick days taken was observed, as well as a noticeable reduction in absenteeism. Furthermore, nurses working the six-hour workdays, confessed to being less stressed and more physically active, with neck and back pain in check. One of the metric researches also surmised that this enabled them to carry out 64 per cent more active work, while dealing with elderly patients.
While this experiment was limited to a certain professionals in Sweden, companies across the world have and are taking a leaf out of its book. According to a Guardian's UK-based report, people in the Netherlands work five hours lesser in a week than in Britain and in Germany, six hours less. Subsequently, at the time of this study, both the Dutch and German economies were flourishing significantly, and in some sectors even giving Britain a run for her money.
So why does a shorter work-day, lead to overall productivity?
The idea of spending most of their active hours at an office-desk, makes workers lethargic and fatigued. This naturally results in limited efforts and poor outcome. At the same time, the fact that they do not have enough time to spend with their loved ones, and end up finishing house chores, left them agitated. Hence, by the time they get to bed, they already dread the upcoming eight-hour work shift.
To this end, a shorter workday will support work-life balance. Enabling employees to spend enough time with their loved ones and other avenues, helping them form a healthy structure, and in turn, make them look forward to the next day’s work.
Working lesser hours in a day automatically indicates a healthier lifestyle, as workers are prone to experiencing lesser amounts of work pressure and its consequent stress. As a result, in all probability, this will curb sick-days, helping in increasing the day’s overall output.
Finally, working shorter hours, allows individual workers the added gift of ‘personal time’, which they can use to their own limitless discretion. They can finally hit the gym, take those guitar lessons or pick up recipes from Youtube cooking channels. As is common knowledge, happy workers are productive workers.
Sweden is certainly looking into the overall benefits of shifting to six-hour work days. Several other countries in the West have begun imitating them. Maybe it’s time for India to consider a change as well?