The way we work is changing at an alarming rate and soon the entire landscape of the traditional 9-5 job will look more different than it ever has. This not is not only an American concept, but it is happening on a global scale.
Studies have shown that working longer hours are linked with increasing mental health issues and an increased risk in stroke and heart disease. Working longer hours are not always the best factor for your health as studies in Sweden show. The city of Gothenburg conducted an experiment for two years testing the theory of working less hours in 2014, and found that there are huge health benefits and cost savings to working shorter days.
Image: Pacta Gudelines, Bloomberg
The study lasted for only two years but nurses who participated gained short and long-term benefits. Researcher Bengt Lorentzon found that working six hour days resulted in healthier nurses, who now had the energy to engage in activities at the end of the work day. Lorenzton found that across the entire city, nurses were becoming healthier, and taking less time off of work with their new shifts. Nurses who were working shorter shifts, took 4.7% fewer sick days while nurses who worked longer shifts took 62.5% more time off.
Image: Pacta Guideline
“These improved attitudes and health led to higher quality care at the nursing home,” says Lorenton. Improved health and productivity, can also lead to lower costs and more savings. When employees are healthy, that is less money companies are spending on procedures, doctor visits, and medications. Not only does working less save money for employers but for employees as well. This is an extremely significant finding being that working women, nurses in particular, appear to be less healthy than other women.
Nurses in the study also claimed to have better attitudes at work and felt less stressed. Nurses who experienced these feelings delivered better care to their patients, since employees who are happy at their jobs tend to produce better work.
Sweden however isn’t the only place trying to retain healthy employees. Many companies in the United States have gotten more serious about their work site wellness. Health insurance companies now have to create more effective employee work site wellness programs that help groups keep down costs and productivity high.
Employers spent an average of $693 per employee on wellness incentives in 2015, which is an increase from $430 five years ago. For larger companies, that number is event higher.
So why aren’t more companies pushing for shorter work days?
This can be tough as changing the norm on a large scale will take some time, but there are many of employers who have become more open to working from home. In Sweden, political conflicts are stopping more experiments from being done as well as a full push towards a six hour work day norm, with conservatives opposing shortening the work day.
There is more work to be done in studying the behavior of those who work shorter days. The study in Sweden revealed a lot, yet researchers were only focused on the short term effects of the new schedule – not long term.
“A more complete analysis [of Sweden] would include the upside of having done it,” said Eduardo Sanchez, Chief Medical Officer for Prevention at the American Heart Association. “The question is what were they measuring in terms of cost and what was included and what wasn’t included?”