In 2015, it was announced that a number of Swedish start-ups had begun offering a standard six-hour working day, as opposed to the standard eight-hours a day or 40 hour working week. This was in response to a trend that spread throughout Sweden, that of configuring a new work/life balance. The idea of less hours = more work has understandably drawn the attention of various businesses and individuals across the globe. Yet, is this a realistic trend for Ireland’s workforce?
Considering the current workforce in the Dublin region, especially during ‘rush hour’, there are obvious signs that people are adopting this Scandinavian approach already. Individuals parading gym bags, dressed in sportswear or sporting runners with their work clothes, all insinuates the Irish workers are rehearsing for something like this trend to take over. Substantiating this is the ‘healthy eating’ image observed; whether it is the healthy cafés now popping up around Dublin, the countless celebrity cookbooks or even the change in readymade meals in supermarkets. Ireland is waiting.
Nonetheless, the possibility of this six-hour day being implemented is not exactly straightforward. In Sweden, the most discernible example relates to the Toyota service centres more than a decade ago. To combat declining satisfaction levels from both employee and customer, Toyota introduced two six-hour shifts a day, leading to improved productivity and satisfaction levels all-round. Yes a clear success story due to the attractive working hours and subsequent competitive workforce, but not all jobs can easily translate into shift work.
Here lies a major stumbling block for this concept. Could you rely on a company not in work while you’re working? Or why acquire a client pulling fewer hours than any in the industry? This notion of industry acceptance or industry tolerance is a salient factor for start-ups considering this venture. Unless the big players in an industry begin adopting this new work/life balance and accepting it, then these start-ups face a stronger uphill battle than they already had. Either way, I think Sweden and notably Ireland are a long way off the prediction Keynes made 70 years ago that in a couple generations, we would be working fifteen hour weeks. One can hope though, can’t we?
By Eoghan Kennefick