Yet we don’t live in an ideal world. We have to go to work to pay the bills, put a roof over our heads and, if we’re lucky, have money left over to afford to buy the things we want.
The average UK worker gets through about 37.5 hours a week – a traditional nine-to-five week to you or I.
But what if working this long was actually counter-productive? Could we actually do more if our day was shorter, get through the work we need to complete AND get a better work/life balance? That’s certainly the theory behind an intriguing experiment in Sweden.
Not content with giving the world ABBA, IKEA and moody crime dramas, the Swedes are now leading the way in giving the six-hour day a try.
This has been embraced to try to replicate the success of a famous example at Toyota in Gothenburg. The car manufacturer’s centres in the Swedish second city embraced a trial and, after noting happier staff and an increase in profits, stuck with it ever since.
Linus Feldt, CEO at app developer Filimundus, explained: “The eight-hour work day is not as effective as one would think.
“To stay focused on a specific work task for eight hours is a huge challenge. In order to cope, we mix in things and pauses to make the work day more endurable. At the same time, we are having it hard to manage our private life outside of work.”
So, in theory, shorter days encourage sharp productive bursts of creative energy. The greater use of technology in the workplace should also be able to assist with this. Things like HR software, video conferencing and cloud computing are already streamlining some of the things that were once a drag on the schedules of any business. Why not cut the day as a result rather than simply fill the void with more work?
The UK certainly needs to consider something to try to improve productivity. As things stand the country’s output per hour lags way behind its rivals.
The Guardian reported how output per hour in the UK is 18 per cent lower than the average of the remaining members of the G7.
The gap is the biggest it has been since 1991 and is most marked in contrast with Germany, where the UK lags 36 per cent behind.
It would, perhaps, be unusual to look to address that by asking employees to spend less time at work – but it would certainly be an eye-catching measure that could inspire people and a neat way for an up-and-coming employer to make a name for themselves.
In truth, the long term popularity of the six-hour day idea rests of the success of the Swedish experiment. The UK has a productivity gap to address and a nation of workers yearning for a better balance to their lives. Something will need to change. Maybe the Swedes have the answer?