Experiments in Sweden and other European countries have found that organizations can get more productivity out of their employees by prescribing a shorter, more focused workday. If these findings are replicated and the practice becomes more prevalent, Bloomberg’s Rebecca Greenfield wonders whether six-hour workdays could catch on in the US. Her conclusion? Don’t count on it anytime soon:
Even with encouraging results, it’s unlikely that the U.S. will soon shift to shorter days. Americans work around 38.6 hours per week, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. They get, on average, fewer than eight paid vacation days a year; only about three-quarters of workers get any paid time off at all, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. “The Swedish model will not be easily accepted in the U.S. because we are a nation of workaholics,” said Rao. …
In the U.S., companies have sought to show flexibility by adopting a four-day workweek, albeit with the same total amount of hours. In a sort of workplace sleight-of-hand, the prospect of perpetual long weekends keeps people motivated. “It helps them stay more focused,” said Rao.
Frankly, even the four-day workweek seems to me like an ambitious goal for American work culture. Currently, the US workweek stretches to six days for many employees, owing to the additional work they feel compelled to do because of mobile technologies. In this environment, it’s hard to keep employees off their work email on Saturdays and Sundays, much less limit them to four workdays. If you mandated it, you might actually lose more than a day, if you count the extra time as well.
I think the more important productivity enhancer in the US would be to actually enforce the five-day week, softly persuading employees to leave work at work and let weekends be weekends.