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We can’t put a price on better work … or can we?

This is an older piece of news, but as we found ourselves talking about these trials during our centre research meeting last week, we thought it might be useful to bring it back to your attention.

One of the themes that consistently emerge in discussions about how work is going to change is the amount of work that we will be doing in the future. Expectations of doing less work have been around for quite a while, but existing evidence is showing that, in fact, our working time has remained the same, if not increased.

But what would happen if we indeed worked less? Sweden tried to provide an answer to this question by sponsoring large trials of 6 hours workdays. Not surprisingly, these trials showed that reduced working hours can benefit both the employees and the organisations: not only employees were happier and more rested, they also took less sick leave and worked more productively and more creatively.

However, despite these positive outcomes, after two years, officials decided that associated costs outweigh the benefits and gave up plans to make these working arrangements permanent. Trials were stopped and people returned to their previous schedules, with little consideration for the possible negative consequences that they might experience.

Similar trials in the private sectors are reporting mixed results, suggesting that benefits might be dependent on the specific industry, company and type of work. Therefore, it appears that despite the rapid technological progress and increased focus on work-life balance, we still have a long way to go to achieve reduced working hours, but we hope that more and more countries, employers, and research institutions will join the discussion around how better work can be achieved in the near future.

More details about these trials can be found here.

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