A lot of Americans seem to be of the opinion that working excessively leads to higher rates of productivity. This helps explain why we are one of two countries in the world that doesn't guarantee paid maternity leave, and the only country in the developed world that doesn't guarantee paid vacation time.
This is a country where people live to work, instead of working to live; that's just how we roll. The truth is, however, we are only hurting ourselves.
In Sweden, the government has been experimenting with six-hour workdays, analyzing how it impacts productivity and worker happiness. After about a year of gathering data, it found that sometimes less really can be more, at least in terms of shorter workdays breeding higher levels of productivity, Bloomberg reports.
Sixty-eight nurses at the the Svartedalens retirement home who were part of this project worked six-hour days on an eight-hour salary.
Ultimately, when compared to nurses at a similar facility who were not working shorter workdays, these nurses were 2.8 times less likely to take time off work in a two-week period. They also took half as much sick time.
Additionally, and unsurprisingly, these nurses were 20 percent happier and had significantly more energy. This translated into them doing more activities with elderly residents.
In other words, working shorter days made these nurses much better at their jobs.
According to Bengt Lorentzon, one of the researchers on the project,
If the nurses are at work more time and are more healthy, this means that the continuity at the residence has increased. That means higher quality [care].
All of this makes a lot of sense. Human beings are not machines. Our brains and bodies require rest in order for us to be at our best, or most efficient. Giving people shorter workdays seems logical in this regard.
We should be thinking about work like long-distance running -- it's not always wise to run as fast as you can, it's much better to pace yourself.
Unfortunately, in spite of mounting evidence working less can actually equal more, it's unlikely the US will be adopting shorter workdays anytime soon. The work culture in America is very ingrained, and, as the US government so often proves, this country is not the biggest fan of change.
Sometimes a country can really be its own worst enemy.