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The 6 Hour Work Day: Productivity and Performance Management

Over the summer the results of a Swedish experiment to reduce the traditional work day from 8 to 6 hours has been circulating the internet. The theory was that employees working for 6 hours a day on an 8 hour a day salary would increase productivity in the workplace. The results appear to be that it does!

The study took place for a year and showed that decreasing the average working day hours to 6 for a day that traditionally would be for 8 hours work increased day by day productivity, getting the same amount of work done in 6 hours as they would’ve during 8. Overall, employees were half as likely to go off sick than those doing the same job for 8 hours a day, show lower levels of stress and work harder. The key result – productivity can increase with fewer hours worked.

There has been much speculation as to whether the UK would adopt this upon these findings, with the current labour leader stating he would discuss proposals to introduce shorter working hours. On average the UK working week is 43.6 hours, or 8 hours and 40 minutes a day. Could we produce the same amount of work in 6 hours like the study implicates? Would the cost to companies cutting hours be greater than the benefits to employees? These are the challenges imposing new shorter working hours would entail.

So what would this mean for performance management and how we devise objectives, manage employee performance to drive our businesses forward? Is reducing the working day hours a progressive step forward or a step back for fulfilling your business objectives? Well if the theory that it increases productivity is accurate, we can assume performance management would also be easier. If people are performing better in reduced hours then they would require less management, be able to achieve their KPIs set in less amount of time and help drive business objectives forward. Surely then this would help managers and directors be able to focus on coming up with new goals, focus on performance managing the business rather than employees, and explore ways to develop and drive the business forward. Would this be possible in less time in the day? Sweden certainly thinks so!

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