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 have 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". As it seems to happen a lot these days, other media picked up only part of the story and within a few hours, the world seemed to believe the whole of Sweden was switching to a six-hour day. 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. If my job was turned into a hobby, did that mean my hobbies would turn into a job? A whole new realm of possibilities was opening itself up, right in front of my eyes.
Before I got too excited, I decided to do some research. I called up the Swedish National Employment Office (SNEOE), Arbetsförmedlingen and 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 gotten any information about that.
I just want to know if I'll be allowed to leave my job at three o'clock today? I have certain errands to run. At the moment, we haven't gotten any word about implementing new working hours so I don't really know what to tell you.
Going back to my desk defeatedly, 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 trying 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 where they write about how confusing this global misunderstanding is to Swedes.
So now you can go back to just being jealous of our astoundingly functioning society. Sweden is not a paradise with a six-hour-long work day. But we are thinking about it.