Here’s the Awesome Reason Why People in Sweden Only Work Six Hours per Day

Maybe we should rethink how much time we spend in the office.

shutterstockHave you ever caught yourself watching the clock while on the job? Do the hours seem to drag by as you sit at your office desk?

First of all, it could be a sign that you’re in the wrong career. But another culprit could be the long hours you’re spending in the office, experts say. Turns out, long working hours actually backfire for employees, making them less productive. Inc.com reports that over the course of an eight-hour workday, employees are only productive for about three hours, on average. (Here are the subtle signs you might be a workaholic.) On the other hand, employees who crunch their working hours tend to get more done—plus, they receive loads of other health perks.

Not convinced? Just ask Sweden! Companies in this Scandinavian country are beginning to scale back the length of the day, opting for a six-hour workday, Fast Company reports. And the results have been overwhelmingly positive so far. For Linus Feldt, CEO of Stockholm-based app developer Filimundus, the incentive to change came from his own experience.

“I think the eight-hour workday is not as effective as one would think,” he said. “To stay focused on a specific work task for eight hours is a huge challenge…. In order to cope, we mix in things and pauses to make the workday more endurable. At the same time, we are having it hard to manage our private life outside of work. We want to spend more time with our families, we want to learn new things or exercise more. I wanted to see if there could be a way to mix these things.”

When Filimundus switched his company to a six-hour workday last year, he was immediately impressed. Not only were his employees focusing more intensely on their work, but company morale surged.

His employees “were happy leaving the office and happy coming back the next day,” Feldt said. “They didn’t feel drained or fatigued. That has also helped the work groups to work better together now, when we see less conflicts and arguments. People are happier.”

Swedish companies also believe that shorter workdays are an investment in their employees’ private lives. According to the CEO of Brath, another tech startup, “We believe that this is a good reason to stay with us and not only because of the actual impact longer hours would make in your life but for the reason behind our shorter days…. We actually care about our employees.”

Still, despite the benefits, it’s understandable if you still want to stick with your 9-to-5 routine. (The American work ethic often demands it!) If so, we’ve got your hour-by-hour guide to boosting your work energy—eight-hour workday approved.

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Brooke Nelson
Brooke Nelson is a researcher at PBS FRONTLINE in Boston, Massachusetts, and writes regularly about travel, health, and culture news for Reader’s Digest. Previously she was a staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her articles have also appeared on MSN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance, among other sites. She earned a BA in international relations from Hendrix College. Follow her on Twitter @BrookeTNelson.