Six hour work days, extended lunches and no emails after work

10th January 2017

Sweden has trialled six hour work days with care staff at a nursing home in an attempt to improve staff happiness, health and patient care, with rather mixed results. The experiment saw 68 nurses have their shifts cut down to six hours for a two year period, without a drop in their pay and required the hiring of an additional 17 members of staff.

While the trial showed that nurses were indeed happier and the quality of patient care rose, the cost of implementing this proved too much and a further roll out was shelved. While this particular incident didn’t lead to a complete over-haul of working practices in the country, it does demonstrate how these can vary across borders and indeed sectors.

So how else do working days vary around the globe?


Keeping our focus on Sweden, while the six hour working day didn’t quite go to plan, staff in the country do have a slightly different working structure. Most notably, it’s possible to take up to six weeks of vacation during the summer. As a result, some restaurants and shops are forced to close during what many would consider a rather popular time for the hospitality sector.


For contractors seeking opportunities in China, it’s important to be aware that employees take longer lunch breaks, often amounting to around two hours a day, so planning calls and meetings around lunchtime could prove problematic. While it’s not confirmed, there is the belief that this extended break was initially put in place by a former Emperor who felt he didn’t have enough time to eat and sleep at lunch.

The Netherlands

Flexibility is rife across The Netherlands and professionals seeking job opportunities in this region would do well to be aware of both the options available and the specific terms put in place by any firm they are looking to work for. Of course, this flexible approach to work hours could create a slight headache when it comes to arranging meetings, but it should certainly appeal to those operating within the gig economy.


The French might be known for their commitment to and love of good food (perhaps the reason for the high take up in lunch vouchers by staff across the country) but it is their focus on having a greater work / life balance that interests us. Recently, a new law was put in place which gave employees the right to disconnect from emails after work – so don’t expect an immediate response to that late night communication!

Interested in six hour work days?

These are just a few examples of how employment hours and expectations can vary around the world. As a contractor looking for opportunities across borders or a recruiter placing these individuals, it’s vital that you are aware of any particular nuances and the impact they can have.

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