After an experiment at a Swedish nursing home, some people are saying that “less is more.”
Where are we going? To the work/life balance.
The Swedish Experiment
Researchers wanted to find out if less time at work created more productivity. So, for two years, 68 employees of a Gothenburg, Sweden nursing home earned full pay for fewer hours.
The results? Working five days a week, six hours a day, employees were less stressed and more active. They engaged in more activities with the elderly residents and called in sick less frequently. Everyone was happier.
The big problem was cost. Paying 17 extra employees for the missed time added up to $1.3 million (12 million kronor). Yes, jobs were created that cut government unemployment expenses. But still they had to cover the shortfall.
OECD Work/Life Balance
Looking more closely at work/life balance, the OECD has ranked its 38 countries. With work, leisure and personal care hours their focus, they placed the Netherlands at the top and Turkey at the bottom:
And here are the U.S. and the U.K.:
Our Bottom Line: Tradeoffs
You can see that the Swedish experiment returns us to that unattainable free lunch. Fewer work hours required a tradeoff. Choosing between a work/life balance and government spending, the Swedes favored their budget. News reports said that the study will be discontinued.
But still, less might have been more.
My sources and more: Sweden’s six-hour workday experiment was covered in reports from Bloomberg, the NY Times, and Business Insider. Taking the next step, the OECD’s Better Life Index looked at work/life balance in 38 countries. Finally, for an entirely different perspective, this paper investigates the networking value of similar leisure hours.