When writing about any particular issue, a good writer needs to present its complexity. Therefore, he or she can develop a balanced and comprehensive opinion while also exploring the nuances that could be overlooked in a more superficial examination. Today, for many, working 6 hours a day instead of 8 may seem naive or even utopian. Nevertheless, numerous studies confirm the effectiveness and economic viability of such an approach. At the same time, there is evidence that for some professionals, 6-hour work shifts may be an inappropriate solution. Therefore, the arguments of supporters and opponents of a 6-hour working day should be presented to develop a comprehensive position. This paper aims to provide a critical discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of introducing a 6-hour working day in various employment areas.
In their articles, Bernmar and Dean discuss a curious social experiment carried in Sweden. It was held in Goetenberg care home and lasted two years from 2014 to 2016. The nurses, participating in the project agreed to switch to a 6-hour working day, without lowering their salaries. Even though hiring an additional 17 employees increased the cost of maintaining a care home by 20%, the results surprised both scientists and participants.
Hence, residents of the care home reported higher satisfaction with the care services provided since the nurses spent twice more time doing activities with them. Dean notes that “77% of assistant nurses in the trial reported good health, compared with only 49% at a similar care home without reduced hours” (9). Further, 75% of nurses reported they felt alert, compared with 38% in the other care homes, and 72% felt calm (Dean 9). Scientists also recorded a decrease in the duration of the sick leave by half compared with nurses working 8-hour shifts.
Bernmar concludes that switching to a 6-hour working day is a sensible decision since it has many sustained social and economic consequences. Bernmar emphasizes that a 6-hour workday may decrease women’s unemployment without lowering the birth rate, and help employees to establish a healthy work-life balance. Besides, since in some countries the retirement age is 65-67 years, it would be easier for older people to keep their jobs and successfully cope with the duties during a 6-hour working day.
Another study, whose participants, ambulance workers, agreed to switch from 8-hour to 6-hour night shifts showed a similar tendency. Ambulance workers noted that they needed less time to recover after one or several night shifts (Dong et al. 94). However, a 6-hour working day also has opponents among scientists. In particular, the research studying fatigue and inter-shift recovery in nursing students working one 12-hour or two 6‐hour shifts found “no differences in chronic/acute fatigue or inter-shift recovery” (Fletcher et al. 1). Moreover, scientists concluded that nursing students preferred the one 12‐hour clinical shift.
Bernmar notes that, in UK hospitals, there is a tendency to switch to 12-hour shifts. Managers believe fewer shift handovers will save money, while fewer working days will improve employees’ work-life balance. Researcher Peter Griffiths commented on this issue, saying that the potential downsides of shorter days in UK hospitals may include more handovers, more workdays, and fewer paid hours. Griffits also admitted that research results showed lower job satisfaction and quality of care for nurses working 12-hour shifts and said an 8-hour workday is not the best solution.
There are also supporters of 12-hour workdays among miners due to the specifics of their work. It takes time to go down to the mine and get to the ore, so frequent interchanges make the miners less efficient (Rupprecht 12). Interestingly, many Spaniards report they will gladly switch to the 8-hour routine since the existing 11-hour working day with numerous breaks for lunch and siesta is highly ineffective (Jones). Spaniards believe that this workday type, inherited from General Franco, is more suitable for agriculture than for the office workers.
Therefore, many factors must be taken into account when deciding on a change in the length of the working day. First, such changes will depend on the decisions of business owners and heads of state institutions. Then, switching to a 6-hour workday is meaningless if the wages will be reduced. Further, in office work or work in the service sector, a 6-hour working day can be a humane and reasonable alternative. However, in specific areas like mining, airlines, or surgery, optimizing the working day should consider more factors.
Bernmar, Daniel. “Ignore the Headlines: A Six-Hour Working Day is the Way Forward.” The Guardian, 2017.
Dean, Erin. “Sickness Absence Halved in Trial of Six-Hour Day.” Nursing Standard, vol. 31, no. 20, 2017, pp. 9-10.
Dong, A. X., et al. “P048: Profiling the Burdens of Working Nights. Traditional 8-hour Nights vs Staggered 6-hour Casino Shifts in an Academic Emergency Department.” Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine, vol. 19, no. 1, 2017, pp. 94-95.
Fletcher, Linnea, Brenda Buffington, and Janine Overcash. “Chronic and Acute Fatigue and Inter-shift Recovery in Undergraduate Nursing Students Working 12 or 6‐hour Faculty‐Supervised Clinical Shifts.” Nursing Forum, vol. 1, no. 3, 2020, pp. 1-5.
Jones, Sam. “Working 9 to 8: Spain seeks to shorten 11-hour working day.” The Guardian, 2016. Web.
Rupprecht, S. M. “A Move to a 12-hour Working Shift – the Benefits and Concerns.” Proceedings of the 27th International Symposium on Mine Planning and Equipment Selection-MPES 2018. Springer, 2019, pp. 12-20.