Sweden, You Can Keep Your 6-Hour Work Day

Photo by Georgina Martin.
Sweden, that socialist utopia liberals like to reference when talking about other countries who just do life better, is experimenting with six-hour work days. This week, Fast Company reported on three companies that have cut worker hours, only to see productivity soar. (And last year, we wrote about how the Swedish government was trying out shorter work days.) That's the dream, right? To work less and accomplish more. But, the whole concept of a 30-hour work week leaves me feeling kind of "meh." I like my long days (which, at Refinery29, regularly stretch to 10 or sometimes even 12 hours), and I'm not really interested in making them shorter.

Granted, I have a pretty sweet setup right now. I don't have kids. I have a supportive husband who makes dinner most nights. I have smart colleagues with whom I like to interact, and a job I enjoy doing. Spending a Sunday morning in bed writing a story doesn't really seem like work. I don't really want to clock in at 9 a.m. and out at 5 p.m. What would I do with that extra time? I'm not really one for hobbies or watching three-plus hours of TV each night. And while I never get enough time with my husband, when we do finally sit down to dinner after a long day, we have a lot to talk about. (And the "no phones at the dinner table" rule ensures we're not glued to our devices for at least 20 minutes.)

What I really crave is flexibility. I want to be able to come in late on those days when the tub clogs and I have to wait around for the plumber. I don't want to feel guilty when I sneak out early to hang out with a friend who's in from out of town. And, since the dry cleaners and the bank and my gynecologist are typically open Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., there are inevitably going to be days when I have to dash out to get those annoying tasks done.

In her new book, Unfinished Business, Anne-Marie Slaughter shares an anecdote from a mother with C-suite aspirations who expressed her frustration at being forced to be at the office between 8 and 6, when technology has made it possible for her to do her work practically anywhere. And, truly, if we are all expected to check email 24/7, why can't we have a little flexibility regarding where and when we get the work done?

I admire Sweden and the many progressive benefits the country offers its citizens. I'm all for universal healthcare and 480 days of paid family leave. But I'll keep my 60-hour work week, thank you very much. I've got stories to write and colleagues to brainstorm with. But I might be in a little late tomorrow — I've got something personal to take care of.

More from Work & Money


R29 Original Series