Six-Hour Workday Experiment Produced Healthier Workers, Better Service But At Higher Costs

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Apr 17, 2017
By Arivumathi - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

For two years an elder care center in Sweden experimented with a six-hour workday, finding that nurses with shorter hours were sick less often and delivered better quality service, though the facility eventually returned everyone to eight hour shifts due to the increased costs the experiment produced, according to Bloomberg.

The experiment, which took place in the Swedish city of Gothenburg between 2014 and 2016, divided nurses at an elder care home into experimental and control groups. The control group maintained the standard eight-hour workday, while the experimental group's hours were cut back to six, without any corresponding pay reductions. What they found was that nurses in the control group took far more sick days than those in the experimental group: 62.5 percent more over the experiment's two-year timeframe. The experimental group's use of sick time, meanwhile, dropped by 4.7 percent over two years. They also took less unexpected time off generally. 

Beyond taking less time off, the nurses in the experimental group expressed less stress and more job satisfaction, two factors that are highly correlated with greater productivity and levels of service, according to Bloomberg. 

However these results did not come free: in order to compensate for the reduced hours, the nursing home needed to hire 17 more workers to fill in gaps, which cost $1.3 million. So while the experiment suggests having shorter work days results in happier, healthier and more productive workers, it also demonstrates that this comes at the expense of higher staffing costs. 

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