Today I heard about Sweden’s decision to move to a six -hour work day. Why thank you Sweden– because you reminded me that I had this little post in my blog’s draft section waiting to be published.
As a mom who works outside the home, I’ve been saying this for a while now… The more I read about, talk to and analyze the working culture in the United States and its effects on family life the more this has been making sense. In today’s world where many households have two-full time working parents how can one balance two full-time jobs plus household chores plus the children’s activities? ( to this not even adding parental self-care like exercising or having a good night sleep).
There are just not enough hours in the day people!! I used to think I didn’t have enough hours in my day because I was crazy enough to be in grad school and be working full-time but now that I’ve graduated, I see the truth- even when you work a job that is 9-5 there are not enough hours in the day. Let me break a typical day down:
Wake up at 6:30– get myself/child ready and walk to school ( child’s arrival time is 8am)
Make it to work by 9am.
Work until 5 p.m.
If lucky- get food shopping done during lunch break, so I can go straight home at 5pm – which means I get home at 6-615 if the MTA has any issues.
If I haven’t had time to food shopping during lunch, that means I have to go food shopping after work (bad idea because lines are awful, so it ends up taking a longer time). In case you’re wondering why I don’t do online shopping, I do but there are some products I need to go to the store to buy (Please Trader Joe’s when will you enable online shopping??) So if I go shopping after work I won’t be home before 7- 7:30.
7-7:40 Have dinner (This means we are either eating leftovers, or ordered in or eating something my mom shared with us). Now that my husband has become a freelancer and has a flexible schedule he can start dinner and have it ready! Hooray! He even can give our son a bath so that he’s ready to be put to bed after dinner.
At 8pm, we start getting our munchkin ready for bed. Teeth brushing, books, snuggles, etc. On a good day, My son is asleep by 8:30. On a bad day, we are running behind schedule and that means my 4-year old will be Mr. Cranky Pants when he wakes up the next day (or when he has to be woken up).
On a good day, my son falls asleep right away and I slip out of his room. On a bad day, I close my eyes to rest and end up waking up at 11pm- or 1am! If that’s the case, there’s no time to talk to my spouse, or even get things ready for the next day.
On a good day, I make it out of my son’s room with some energy and can get some writing or organizing done (oh who am I kidding? I either get writing done or catch up on my latest TV obsession). The day ends and I realize I haven’t had time to go to the gym in weeks. When can one go to the gym?! If lucky, I could squeeze in a gym session or yoga during lunch– but then that means no food shopping…. I could send my son to bed without reading him bedtime stories or snuggling, but that would mean that I’ve spent barely any time with him that day, so bedtime and walking to school has become our special time.
Do you see where I’m going with this? THERE IS JUST NO TIME!!
Last week I was able to work a 6-hour work day. The two hours made SUCH a huge difference. I was able to grab some groceries and get home early enough to work with my son on a few activities and cook without being frazzled and in a rush. Which made me think… what happens when my kid is in school, or if I had two kids? How do you find time to work on homework, and to help kids study? Where is there time to take your kids to their after school activities? Or at least attend school functions? THERE IS JUST NO TIME.
The 6-hour work day would be a solution to overstretched parents who are trying to juggle it all. And really, how productive can one be for eight straight hours? I’m saying eight straight hours because honestly, many people don’t even leave their offices during lunch break. How does one take care of the home, the kids, and oneself when after work and commute and sleep you barely have any time for yourself? To decompress? This is one of the reasons why there is so much preventable disease in the United States, because people don’t have time to take care of themselves, to eat nutritiously, and we’re stressed all the time. Stress plays a major factor in people getting sick, and overworked parents are definitely stressed out.
Back to Sweden… Sweden is way ahead of the curve on everything you can think of when it comes to social welfare of its citizens (paid family leave, more vacation time, comprehensive dental care (free until age 20!). Read all about Sweden’s benefits here (Warning you may cry because what we get here pales in comparison… as an example: “Generous parental leave (föräldraledighet), with a total of 480 days of payment per child. A bonus is paid to parents who split the time evenly.”)
Sweden cites boosting productivity as the main reason they are moving to a 6-hour work day. Fortune reports that Toyota centers in Sweden have made the switch over 10 years ago. Linus Feldt, a Swedish CEO of app developer Filimundus, says it’s hard to be focused for eight hours: “To stay focused on a specific work task for eight hours is a huge challenge. In order to cope, we mix in things and pauses to make the work day more endurable. At the same time, we are having it hard to manage our private life outside of work.” YES! If we are in the office from 9-5 (or later) when are we supposed to manage our private lives?
Shorter work days would mean happier, healthier and less stressed parents, happier kids, and would boost productivity… happier workers who are not resentful for being in the office when it’s necessary. Businesses would even save money.
The six-hour workday would be more in touch with the reality of today’s working families: over 60.2 percent of families have two-working parents… sometimes parents work such long hours they barely see their kids. It’s the work culture that needs to change. It shouldn’t only be about work or putting as many hours in in the office.
And this isn’t just about MOMS. This is not 1950 and dads today are more involved than ever— and they want to be. This is about making things better for working parents and children– and society.
A six-hour work day would be more in tune with the school schedule and would also help parents who work and who scramble to find after-school alternatives when their kids’ “full-day” program ends at 3 or 4 p.m.
So who’s with me? Who’s ready to adopt a six-hour work day? How would your life change if you had a 6-hour work day?