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8-hour workday – an outdated model?

March 2018Text: Sabine TjørnelundPhoto: Sahlgrenska-Universitäts-Krankenhaus

Whether in hospital, in production or the creative industry – working time models deviating from the conventional 8 hours per day are becoming a lot more popular these days. Many an employee would like to work less hours a day. Companies, on the other hand, find qualified, highly motivated staff much faster when implementing such working time models. Tiding-online took a look at various projects in Germany, Sweden and the USA – not all of them are a success story.

A small digital agency in Bielefeld is currently causing a commotion with its new working time model. The employees at Rheingans Digital Enable only work from 8am to 1pm five days a week instead of eight with the same pay. For four months agency owner Lasse Rheingans and his team have been testing the new working hours. So far successfully, even if not entirely without problems. However, the project has been extended beyond the planned testing period with the full support of employees.
There is great interest in the project. Major daily newspapers, television, but also scientists, politicians and the chamber of commerce and industry have spoken with the agency and would like to know more about the five-hour working day. The discussion regarding flexible, shorter or other working hours is in line with the spirit of the times.
Both employees and employers are interested in the topic, even if they have different objectives. Projects in Sweden reveal that both sides could benefit from shorter working hours.
The most successful Swedish example of a six-hour workday began 15 years ago in a Toyota workshop in Gothenburg. The mechanics there only work six instead of eight hours with the same pay, however, in two shifts, from 6am to 12pm and from 12 pm to 6pm. The workshop is open twelve instead of eight hours. The result is positive for all those concerned. Customers benefit from considerably shorter waiting times, employees are more motivated and work more efficiently, the company generates higher revenues.
Another success story, also from Gothenburg, was born out of necessity. The Sahlgrenska university hospital in Gothenburg was suffering under lack of staff, high sickness rates and staff fluctuation despite additional salary incentives. In order to not have to close one of the two operating rooms due to insufficient capacity utilisation, the hospital initially introduced a new working time model on a trial basis in 2014. The staff only worked six hours with the same pay and as Toyota in several shifts. The result is impressive: considerably lower sickness rates, motivated and satisfied staff who manage as much as they used to in eight hours, longer opening hours and a better capacity utilisation of the operating rooms as well as shorter waiting times for patients. The trial phase was extended several times and the project was integrated in the hospital operation in 2016. The result: it is considerably easier to find qualified staff. “We have many enquiries from people who would like to work for us. We have much fewer recruiting problems nowadays”, says Anders Hyltander, division manager at the Sahlgrenka university hospital.
A further Swedish project with a six-hour workday was successful as far as recruiting new staff or the reduction of sickness rates is concerned. In order to implement the reduced working hours in a nursing home without problems, however, new members of staff had to be employed. That was too expensive for the community in the long term. After a year the project was discontinued due to high costs.
The exact opposite occurred in the case of “Tower Paddle Boards”, a small company for stand-up paddle boards. Stephan Aarstol, managing director and founder, introduced the five-hour workday for himself and his ten staff members in 2015. However, with the same pay and a five percent profit share he expects his employees to be more productive than before in the time from 8am to 1pm. Those who do not manage that workload must leave. Apparently, the project works. In the year of implementation of the five-hour workday, the company managed to reach 239th place of the top 5000 fastest growing companies in America. The following year they increased their turnover by 40 percent. Today, Aarstol is one of the most popular speakers when it comes to staff motivation and new working time models. He recounted his experience in a book*. As mentioned in an interview with the finance portal finanzen.net, he assumes that his working time model in conjunction with the requirement of more productivity as well as the participation in sales result in having the most creative and productive employees in the long term.
It is for sure that working time models deviating from the conventional 8-hour workday are currently very popular. A shorter workday seems very much more attractive for many an employee and employer as is shown by several examples. The agency in Bielefeld had received more than a hundred applications in four days, Rheingans, head of the agency, told the media.

Report us about your experience with similar or other projects or discuss this with us and others on LinkedIn.

* „The Five-Hour Workday: Live Differently, Unlock Productivity, and Find Happiness“

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