Thanks to science, we already know that 10am is the ideal time to start working and that mid-work naps can boost alertness, productivity, and overall happiness. Now science is back with another suggested improvement to the standard 9-to-5 grind: a 6-hour work day.
A recent 23-month study of Swedish workers observed 68 full-time nurses who were moved from 8-hour work days to 6-hour work days between February 2015 and December 2016. Though their working hours were reduced, their pay remained the same. And the results? Well, they look pretty good for both employees and employers.
For starters, the workers were more efficient with 6-hour days. Fewer hours encouraged them to manage their responsibilities better, and on top of the greater productivity, the nurses also put additional effort into caring for their patients.
“They would go the extra mile,” Bengt Lorentzon, one of the study’s researchers, told the Washington Post. “They had more time to sit down and listen, read a book, look at a newspaper with them or comfort those not feeling so good.”
Better at work? Check. And the benefits didn’t stop there.
The study also found that the nurses experienced physical and mental benefits from reduced working hours. They had more time to engage in activities outside of work, were less stressed and less tired, took fewer sick days, had more energy, and felt happier overall. They even reported having less neck and back pain at the end of their shifts.
Unsurprisingly, the study has been controversial. Some call it crazy and financially irresponsible. Some point to the potential health savings to be mined if employees’ work hours are reduced. Others say the 6-hour work day could be more expensive in the short term, but provide a good return over the long haul.
A single study cannot possibly provide definitive proof that 6-hour days are the way to go, but it’s an encouraging start. And with more and more companies taking work-life balance and employee happiness seriously in a bid to attract and retain the best talent, it’s conceivable that some may start experimenting with reduced working hours.