It’s just as you’ve always suspected: You really would be more productive (and happier) if you didn’t have to work eight hours a day.
That’s according to the findings of a long-term workplace study.
The study was conducted on nurses working in an eldercare facility in Gothenburg, Sweden, who went from working eight-hour shifts to six-hour shifts for nearly two years. The researchers found that not only were the nurses happier and less stressed, they also took 4.7% fewer sick days than when they worked regular shifts, as well as less unexpected time off. Perhaps even more shocking, nurses in a control group who worked regular work hours took 62.5% more sick days than the nurses taking part in the experiment, reports Bloomberg.
Another bonus? The quality of care for the elderly residents improved, Bloomberg reported, because the nurses had more energy to increase (by 64%!) the number of activities they did with their patients, which the researchers used as a measure of productivity.
Unfortunately, the study, which was sponsored by the city of Gothenburg, ran out of funding, and the nurses have returned to their eight-hour shifts. (Government officials felt the study wasn’t conclusive enough to warrant making a permanent change, in part because it would mean having to hire more nurses to cover all the shifts.)
But the study’s high profile has sparked debate around the world on whether companies, or even countries, should make cultural shifts that encourage shorter work weeks, whether that’s fewer hours worked per day, fewer days worked per week, or more flexibility with employees’ schedules.
Past research has also made the case that productivity isn’t harmed by working fewer hours. A 2016 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development of its member countries found that productivity actually went up when people worked fewer hours. And a 2014 study out of Stanford University found little correlation between the number of hours worked and productivity, even finding that results start slipping after people worked 50 hours.
It may be a while before companies start taking these results seriously and institute shorter working hours, but that doesn’t mean you have to succumb to burnout. Help keep work stress from creeping into your personal life with some calming strategies, like working out, listening to music on your commute or scheduling things you enjoy outside of work.