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No, Sweden Is Not Enforcing a Six-Hour Work Day

You can stop planning your move to Sweden, because the whole six-hour work day thing is just a massive misunderstanding.
October 7, 2015, 1:00pm
Photo by Fredrik Rubensson via Flickr

A worker's paradise? Photo via Flickr user Robert Block

This article was originally published on VICE Sweden.

Last week, an article titled Why Sweden Is Shifting to a 6-Hour Workday appeared on a business news website called Fast Company. The story is focused on one Swedish IT company, who has started to experiment with six-hour work days in order to produce happier and healthier employees. It also contains the quote: "In Sweden, the six-hour workday is becoming common."

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As seems to happen often these days, other media picked up only one part of the story and, within a few hours, the world at large seemed to believe that the whole of Sweden was switching to a six-hour day. It fooled the Guardian, it fooled the Independent, it fooled Conde Nast Traveller, it fooled us.

It fooled me, too. I basically spent the past weekend imagining what my new life as a six-hour worker would be like, and a whole new realm of possibilities opened itself up, right in front of my eyes. However, before I got too excited, I decided to do some research. I called up the Swedish National Employment Office (SNEOE), Arbetsförmedlingen, to figure out when this glorious new life would start.

Below is the conversation that ensued:

SNEOE: Jonas speaking, how may I help?
VICE: Hi, I'm just calling to check when the six-hour work day is being introduced? I'm not really following you.
It's been all over the news. CNN, Huffington Post, and the Telegraph have all written about it. Haven't you heard? [Getting stressed] I haven't… Well, it's not something we've been told about *shuffles papers*. We haven't had any information about that.
I just want to know if I'll be allowed to leave my job at 3 o'clock today? I have errands to run. At the moment, we haven't had any word about implementing new working hours, so I don't really know what to tell you.
Okay, thanks.

Photo courtesy of CGP Grey

Returning to my desk defeated, I was able to confirm that the six-hour work day would, for now, remain a fantasy. Swedish news site The Local wrote: "…the idea that Swedish firms are currently queuing up to offer their staff even shorter contracts than they do now is quite simply wrong." The article also lists the few companies in the country that are trialling shorter work days; it's a total of six companies.

Meanwhile, another Swedish website, Dagens Nyheter, published an article called The Myth About Sweden Is Going Global, in which they detail how confusing this global misunderstanding is to Swedes.

So, long story short, Sweden is not becoming a paradise of six-hour work days (although, evidently, six business owners are considering it). For now, you can just go back to being jealous of our beautiful people, our magnificent landscape, and our astoundingly well-functioning society.