• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Opinion
Why Sweden is a long way from six-hour days
A stressful looking Swedish office. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Why Sweden is a long way from six-hour days

Maddy Savage · 21 Apr 2016, 11:39

Published: 01 Oct 2015 16:59 GMT+02:00
Updated: 21 Apr 2016 11:39 GMT+02:00

Just before lunchtime, I got a call from a major UK broadcaster asking if I could help out with a feature on what the producer described as "Sweden's new six-hour work day". He said he had "spotted a story about it in the Sydney Morning Herald".
 
I turned down the request politely. I usually love sharing my knowledge of Sweden and my experiences of living here when approached by global media. But on this occasion I was unable to. Because the idea that there's a been mass shift towards shorter days in my adopted home simply isn't true.
 
It may be factually accurate that Swedes work some of the shortest hours in Europe and savour and respect work-life balance. However among the 100 or so contacts I have built up in Stockholm over the past 13 months, not one of them works for an employer offering such compressed hours. From expats in the startup scene to Swedes with jobs in schools, media organizations or at major Nordic brands, I am unaware of anybody who gets to go home before their afternoon coffee break.
 
Yet, after reviewing the global press over the past few days, most people outside Sweden would, just like that British journalist, be easily forgiven for thinking that all Swedes are clocking off en masse at 3pm.
 
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, "businesses across the Scandinavian country are implementing the change so workers can spend more time at home or doing the activities they enjoy".
 
Meanwhile the Science Alert website reported that "Sweden is moving towards a standard six-hour work day".
 
The UK-based Independent proclaimed that the entire nation was "moving to a six-hour working day in a bid to increase productivity and make people happier".
 
The list goes on.
 

A Swedish workplace. Photo: Henrik Trygg/TT
 
For those of us reading these articles in Sweden, the few examples cited by the global press were old news.
 
Toyota centres in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, moved to shorter days 13 years ago. A district council in Kiruna, in Sweden's far north offered 250 staff a six-hour work day in the 1980s (scrapping the method in 2005).
 
The most high-profile case in recent months is of a retirement home in west Sweden which started trialling a six-hour day in February, following long discussions about the experiment. A hospital in Gothenburg followed suit.
 
Since then a few companies have announced that they are also testing the concept, including a number of startups quite obviously hoping to make a name for themselves. These include Filimundus, an app developer based in Stockholm which must be cracking open some Swedish 'snaps' this week after being quoted by media across the globe, and Background AB, a creative communication agency in Falun, Dalarna.
 
Most of those trialling the idea have reported a positive impact, from increased efficiency to better communication and fewer staff sick days. So, it makes sense that other companies could soon start taking up the mantle.
 
But, the idea that Swedish firms are currently queuing up to offer their staff even shorter contracts than they do now is quite simply wrong.
 
 
"I'm close to hitting the wall," sighed one Swedish media professional approached by The Local.
 
"I might leave the office at 5.30pm, but I am checking my emails during the evening and at weekends."
Story continues below…
 
And as for our Australian contacts working here in the Swedish capital?
 
"Ha ha, I read that piece in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning over breakfast...and laughed," said Claudia Reiners, a sales manager from Melbourne who works for a fashion tech firm.
 
"I work probably 50 hours a week, which is more than the 40-hour work week most people have in Australia," she added.
 
Meanwhile an Australian-born lawyer told The Local it was "hard to be humourous" about the false buzz around working hours in Sweden, when she'd recently found herself "writing legal memos at 1am on a Friday".
 
She concluded: "There are stories of young lawyers sleeping under their desks at the big firms here just like in London or Sydney: the desks are just sleek Scandinavian ones." 
 

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Maddy Savage (maddy.savage@thelocal.com)

Today's headlines
Swedish police fear serial rapist on loose in Malmö
The attacker is thought to be in his mid-twenties and had been seen riding his bike in the area prior to the incident. Photo:TT

The rape of a 14-year-old girl in Malmö has led police to conjecture that there may be a serial rapist operating in the southern Swedish city.

Stockholm Pokémon hunter impaled on metal fence spike
Another Swede playing Pokémon Go in Stockholm. Photo: Izabelle Nordfjell/TT

He tried to climb a fence to find more Pokémon.

Video
When Alicia Vikander taught us to put our pen in the bottle
Swedish actress Alicia Vikander and US talkshow host Jimmy Fallon. Photo: Tonight Show/NBC/Screenshot

We're not even sure if that's a euphemism or not.

Muslim man fired for not shaking women's hands
File photo of people shaking hands. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

A man is suing a local council in Sweden after he lost his job for refusing to shake hands with female colleagues.

Swedish bus driver who hit asylum seeker: 'I'm not racist'
The story has grabbed global headlines. Photo: Nobina

A Swedish bus driver caught on camera beating and kicking an asylum seeker has for the first time spoken to media.

Stay out, the water's filthy! Germs ruin Swedes' swims
Seagulls only.

Fancy a dip? If so, you might want to keep your mouth shut.

Man kicked off flight from Sweden over 'Isis tattoo'
A Norwegian plane at Stockholm Arlanda Airport. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

A flight from Stockholm was delayed on Thursday after it was claimed that one of the passengers had an Isis flag tattooed on his arm.

Homes
In pictures: Are Swedes falling in love with colour at last?
What happened to the Swedish greyscale? Photo: Linda Åhman

Antonia Wiklund of Houzz.se investigates why the Swedes are abandoning their sleek and clean interior design for vibrant colours.

The Local Recipes
How to make Swedish cold poached salmon
Cold poached salmon. Photo: John Duxbury/Swedish Food

Poached salmon is a Swedish summer classic. Food writer John Duxbury shares his recipe with The Local.

Property
This castle: yours for the price of a tiny flat
Hägerstads Castle: a tumultuous history. Photo: Skeppsholmen Sotheby's International Realty.

It has turrets, is set on a lake and is just 2 hours from Stockholm. So why's it so cheap?

Sponsored Article
Gran Canaria: Where Swedes go to work (and play)
National
Watch this Swedish weather host leave his fly open... on live TV
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
The Local Voices
'I fled war in Syria. I never expected to be beaten in Sweden'
National
WATCH: Asylum seeker brutally beaten by Swedish bus driver
Blog updates

14 July

Boris Johnson: why Britain’s new foreign minister is cordially loathed (Globally Local) »

"There are lots of things to say about Boris Johnson, Britain’s new foreign secretary. He is…" READ »

 

11 July

Swedish quizzes (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I have created some quizzes you can take online to test your Swedish skills. Here…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
Technology
Why everyone is talking about Sweden's GTA pride parade
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
EU hits truck cartel with record price fixing fine
Society
OPINION: Why Sweden is the most extreme country in the world
The Local Voices
'There is equality in accommodation in Sweden: Everyone is suffering'
Sponsored Article
What can newcomers learn about Sweden at Almedalen?
Gallery
Property of the week: Gräsö, Östhammar
Sponsored Article
Five easy ways to travel more often
Gallery
People-watching: July 15th-17th
National
How to make sure you're not caught out by Sweden's old bank notes
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Business & Money
Why Sweden has been named the most innovative country in Europe
Sponsored Article
'Sweden's Lauryn Hill' touches the country's musical soul
National
Terror attack: what should you do?
National
French expat on the moment he was assaulted by a Stockholm bouncer
Technology
Gunman? Nah, smartphone Swede
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
The Local Voices
'If the war in Syria ended today, would you go back?'
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
The Local Voices
‘I feel like I’m living in a grave!’
Sponsored Article
Local guide: the best of Berlin
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's Princess Victoria celebrates 39th birthday
Sponsored Article
Why you need a EuroBonus American Express Card
Gallery
People-watching: July 13th
National
Swedes discover surprise mountain
Politics
What Sweden's home secretary thinks of Britain's new PM
Gallery
Property of the week: Smedjebacken, Dalarna
The Local Voices
'Even xenophobic Swedes can be polite’
Politics
WATCH: A very Swedish take on Brexit...
National
Swede's fury at Daily Mail's Bråvalla 'lies'
Gallery
People-watching: July 8th-10th
National
Sweden and Denmark trolled each other on Twitter and it's hilarious
The Local Voices
'The best time to be smuggled to Europe is August 20th, 2015'
National
ANALYSIS: Why Swedes are talking more about immigration than before
National
Watch Icelanders cheer their Swedish hero coach
The Local Voices
Swedes: Stop obsessing over your material life and start talking to strangers
3,341
jobs available