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`Six-hour work days can increase productivity'

June 07, 2016 06:48 AM

Jun 07 2016 : The Times of India (Delhi)
`Six-hour work days can increase productivity'
Rebecca Greenfield

Study Shows Employees Get Sick Less, Work Harder
For about a year, nurses at the Svartedalens retirement ho me have worked six-hour days on an eight-hour salary. They're part of an experiment funded by the Swedish government to see if a shorter workday can increase productivity . The conclusion? It does.
As with any cultural shift in the workplace, the six-hour day has to prove itself more than just humane. For any employer, in Sweden or elsewhere, an abridged workweek can't damage productivity if it's going to have a chance. A year's worth of data from the project, which compares staff at Svartedalens with a control group at a similar facility , showed that 68 nurses who worked six hour days took half as much sick time as those in the control group. And they were 2.8 times less likely to take any time off in a two-week period, said Bengt Lorentzon, a researcher on the project.

“If the nurses are at work more time and are more healthy , this means that the continuity at the residence has increased,“ Lorentzon said. “That means higher quality (care).“ Less surprising was that the nurses were 20% happier and had more energy at work and in their spare time. This allowed them to do 64% more activities.

Svartedalens is part of a small but growing movement in Europe.Sweden has dabbled with shorter workdays before: From 1989 to 2005, home-care-services workers in one Swedish municipality had a six-hour work day , but it was abolished due to a lack of data proving its worth. The Svartedalens experiment is designed to avoid that problem: “This trial is very , very clean because it's just one homogenous group of workers,“ said Lorentzon. In Sweden's private sector, the practice is taking root in places such as Toyota service centers in Gothenburg. In the UK, a marketing agency adopted a staggered schedule to allow for re duced work hours while ensuring coverage; a survey last month found that six out of 10 bosses in that country agreed that cutting hours would improve productivity .

The key result --that productivity can increase with fewer hours worked--eliminates a major stumbling block to globalising the shorter work day .

While the Svartedalens experiment offers evidence that shorter hours improve productivity , nursing as an occupation may be more analogous to that of medical residents, rather than a desk job. The study equates productivity with quality of care, which doesn't necessarily translate to white-collar work

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