Working hard, or working effectively?

The North American work ethic pervades most businesses, with many people not even taking all of their meagre two-week annual vacation allowance and employees often at their desks long after 5 pm. Yet Europeans are frequently confounded by this attitude – vacation allowances of five or six weeks a year are common there, often coupled with long lunch hours or siestas, particularly in Mediterranean countries.

More recently, some businesses in Sweden have begun experimenting with a six-hour work day.

Yes, you did read that correctly; employees get the same salary for working two fewer hours each and every day. The result? Reportedly happier employees and improved productivity.

Could this work in the US or Canada? Fear of competition, of being outperformed by rivals or even ambitious colleagues, seems to make North Americans feel that this is a really bad idea.

Yet, if the Swedes are to be believed, there is less wasted time and all tasks are completed in the thirty-hour week that once – apparently – took forty hours. So the question we should ask ourselves is – are we really working effectively, or simply working hard? If work/life balance is important, and it seems to be borne out that it is not only important but highly beneficial in terms of family life and health benefits, then why aren’t we looking at this more seriously in North America?

Could you work as productively in fewer hours?


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