Sweden scraps six hours work day despite staff being 'healthier, happier and more productive'

Two-year year trial at Swedish retirement home had a hefty price tag but cut absenteeism and improved staff wellbeing

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The Independent Online

A six-hour workday experiment in Sweden has been abandoned after findings revealed that the costs outweigh the benefits.

However, despite the hefty price tag, many workers at one retirement home in the Swedish city of Gothenberg said the benefits of the trials were considerable.

Nurses at the Svartedalens home, in February 2015, switched from an eight-hour to a six-hour working day for the same wage.

During the two-year experiment, employees reported feeling happier and healthier thereby reducing the number of sick leaves they took by 10 per cent.

Meanwhile, there were also improvements in patients care as workers started to spend more of their reduced working hours on “social activity” with their patients.

Monica Axhede, Director of the Svartedalens Nursing Home, told Euronews: “The atmosphere is more relaxed. We have many people here who suffer from dementia. Before when there was too much stress around, it made them very nervous. Now they are clearly more peaceful.”

“In addition we hired more staff, we created jobs. And we have a lot less sick leave.”

Despite shorter workdays, happier and more productive staff, preliminary results concluded that it also cost the home around 12m kronor (over £1m), because they had to hire in 17 extra staff for the duration of the project.

As result, the city decided it will not push ahead to make the plan permanent.

“It's associated with higher costs, absolutely,” said Daniel Bernmar, a local left-wing politician who has been a leading advocate of the six-hour working day and is responsible for elderly care.

Despite the setback, Mr Bernmar is still supportive of the principle of decreased work hours.

“I personally believe in shorter working hours as a long-term solution,” he said.  

Mr Benmar told the Guardian that the project had always been scheduled to end in 2017 and a final set of results of the trial is expected in March.