News & Views
Sweden explores the future workplace

What’s the secret to a productive workplace? The Swedish city of Umeå might have the answer. The municipality is currently engaged in 40 different experiments investigating how to make workers happier and more effective in their jobs.

“I think we have a responsibility to try and make our working places for our personnel as good as possible,” stated a representative of Umeå’s local government. “And in order to know what is more effective, we need to try different things… to see, can we do this better?”

One such experiment, which saw the implementation of six-hour working days at a retirement home for a full year, has been deemed a categorical failure, despite only being halfway complete.

Advocates of shorter work days claim that eight hour shifts often result in two hours being squandered on “empty labour”, and that six hour days would provide employment opportunities to a wider range of people. Additional motivating factors behind reduced working hours include the potential benefits to the health and wellbeing of workers; surprisingly though, during this experiment, sick leave actually rose from 8 per cent to 9.3 per cent.


While this particular trial was unsuccessful, Umeå is exploring plenty of different avenues, including adopting different corporate cultures and varying team sizes. Cassie Werber at Quartz describes the city as “a petri dish for how the work world could develop,” adding that a relatively low population and stable economy make Sweden the perfect location for such experiments.

The Umeå experiments are indicative of a broader need to change the way we work; according to a recent report published by UBS, the workplace is set to “significantly change” in the near future.

The study credits four key factors; the end of a unified corporate culture due to disparity of perspective in the multi-generational workforce, increasingly complex expectations of millennial workers, reduced loyalty to employers feeding into a growing freelance ecosystem, and, of course, a growing number of roles being overtaken by artificial intelligence.

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