Improved productivity, service delivery and less staff turnover are just some of the proposed benefits from Sweden’s adoption of six-hour working days in public and small business sectors.
For the UK, debate over whether working fewer office hours might translate into similar benefits for local organisations should come as no surprise.
Employers across Sweden have embraced the idea of getting more done in a shorter amount of time, sacrificing social media apps and personal emails in the workplace to give people more energy to enjoy their private lives.
As the days draw shorter and adverse winter weather makes commutes even longer, seasonal changes in the UK present a perfect opportunity for business leaders to try this new approach.
Companies that have been part of the experiment in Sweden so far are beginning to see significant financial improvements since the change. Toyota, for instance, has reported a 25% growth in profit since granting their team of engineers the flexibility to work the hours that suit their lifestyles.
Certainly the desire to break from the conventional nine-to-five day is a core motivation for companies looking to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to work-life balance.
However, an important distinction must be made between providing employees with the flexibility to work when and how they want, with the tools they want to use, rather than simply limiting the number of hours in the office.
For companies looking to follow Sweden’s example, considering some of the key behaviours brought about by mobile technology will prove decisive.
The collaboration dilemma
Today's workers are now collaborating while on-the-go and are very accustomed to living in a world of constant communication where rigid boundaries have yet to be drawn.
For businesses, this carries huge benefits in terms of responsiveness to changes in the market and client demands, but this flexibility must be exchanged for greater freedom to balance work with personal communications. This means allowing social media and personal emails into the workplace.
Evidencing this, the join.me survey found that 60% of respondents communicate via text with their bosses and 81% with other colleagues, suggesting a desire to merge work and private life to achieve a balance on a more 24/7 basis.
Cutting employees off from social media and other forms of communication for six hours a day will almost certainly disrupt this trend and could damage many companies’ ability to retain talent.
The global workforce challenge
We live in a global economy where businesses can explore new markets at almost any stage in their development.
Whether through laptops, tablets or mobile phones, employees working overseas no longer need office space to be productive – remote working tools mean they can choose their workspace for the day and stay connected from anywhere. Co-workers that are half way around the world no longer means they are out of touch.
Restricting when UK employees work will drastically limit the amount of interaction they can have with international counterparts and their exposure to other cultures.
Closing a UK office at 4pm, for example, would result in little or no live interaction with colleagues working on Pacific Standard Time. A country that looks out to a global market should think differently to Sweden, whose internal-facing six-hour day could risk businesses missing opportunities for global growth.
Following Sweden’s example is also likely to incur cost by missing out on new collaborative applications making their way into the workplace via mobile devices.
Allowing employees to use their own personal choice of apps, such as Evernote, Dropbox and Google Drive, can often introduce companies to new productivity tools that improve business functions across the board.
Another point to consider is the business benefits of social media. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are already being used by businesses for functions like marketing, brand development and customer acquisition. Understanding these platforms and regularly interacting with them can have positive business implications.
Adopting the six-hour day represents more than the decision to encourage more effective working patterns with fewer distractions – it is a cultural shift that heavily contrasts with the emerging, connected culture brought about by mobile technology.
Sourced from Stephen Duignan, VP at LogMeIn