Why this country is calling for a six-hour workday

The ministers' approach to work/life balance is a lesson for other countries

Why this country is calling for a six-hour workday

Top officials in Finland are renewing calls to adopt the six-hour workday as well as similar measures that aim to promote a better work/life balance for Finnish employees.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin raised the idea of shortening the traditional eight-hour shift to just six hours when she urged her party to reconsider alternative working arrangements amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need to create a clear vision and concrete steps as to how Finland can proceed towards shorter working hours and Finnish employees towards better working life,” said Marin, who championed the cause prior to becoming prime minister.

Marin believes a six-hour workday could spark greater productivity among workers, and that the arrangement would not hamper Finland’s public finances or its goal of raising employment to at least 75%, Reuters reported.

Read more: Long work hours waste time and lead to lower productivity

“The wealth brought about by the increase in labour productivity has to be split not only between owners and investors but also [between] ordinary employees,” Marin said.

Aino-Kaisa Pekonen, the country’s social affairs and health minister, shared Marin’s sentiments, tweeting: “The effects of a shorter work week could be positive especially in the care sector.”

“We should trial not only six-hour workdays, but also other ways to reduce working hours such as a four-day work week. The key in the trial should be to examine the effects of shorter working hours on labour productivity, sick leave and employee well-being,” she said.

Read more: Could four-day work week solve productivity puzzle?

Pekonen is asking the Finnish government to set aside funding to improve not only the country’s employment situation but also the quality of life in the workplace.

The government should therefore revaluate the impact of a shorter workday on the well-being and longevity of employees as well as on the country’s job creation programs, she said.

Finland has long enjoyed a reputation for having one of the best working conditions in Europe. In a 2017 study, the country emerged as the fourth best in the region in terms of work/life balance.

Finnish employees are said to devote an average of eight hours a day to leisure; 7.2 hours a day to staying in bed; and 1.5 hours to miscellaneous activities.

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