You Don’t Have to Work Your Employees to Death! Here’s What to Do Instead

Employees worked harder, got sick less, and were happier. But were there any drawbacks?

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Photo by Siavash Ghanbari on Unsplash

For many, COVID-19 has resulted in loss of work.

For those in the tech world, however, they have been worked to the bone.

Is there ever an excuse to work your employees to the point of exhaustion?

Will that ever truly produce the desired results?

A Swedish company, Svartedalens was selected to participate in an experiment . Employees began working six-hour days instead of eight–for the same wage.

How did it turn out?


Early returns looked promising. Employees seemed to be brimming with energy, and residents said the standard of care had increased. But would those benefits last over time?

“An audit published in mid-April concluded that the program in its first year had sharply reduced absenteeism, and improved productivity and worker health,” as reported in The New York Times.

“What’s good is that we’re happy,” said Arturo Perez, a single father who works as a caregiver at Svartedalens. “And a happy worker is a better worker.”

“I used to be exhausted all the time, I would come home from work and pass out on the sofa,” said Lise-Lotte Pettersson, an assistant nurse at Svartedalens, in an interview with The Guardian.“But not now. I am much more alert: I have much more energy for my work, and also for family life.”

Of course, it’s not a perfect equation. “Cutting worker hours can cost employers money if increased productivity saves less than the cost of hiring additional workers,” points out Rebecca Greenfield, in a piece she wrote for Bloomberg. “Svartedalens had to hire an additional 15 nurses, which cost 6,000,000 Swedish krona (about $735,000). About half of that expense was offset by the decrease in sick days and time off. That said, the experiment didn’t measure how the improved care affected the overall bottom line.”

But in the tech field, where competition for top talent is stiff, less working hours could be pivotal to attracting older, experienced employees–many of whom are searching for just the right situation to fit their families.

As for me, one of the reasons I started working for myself was to have more control over my schedule–and yes, to eventually have more time for my family. Now, I take Friday off to spend with my wife and kids.


In striving to integrate work/life balance, many companies have brought “life” into the workplace–by providing dining halls, fitness centers, recreation rooms and even laundry facilities on campus. The idea is, if you give employees everything they need at work, why would they ever want to leave?

The key to building a better work culture isn’t trying to force employees to love your company.

It’s recognizing there are other things they love more.

Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.

A version of this article originally appeared on

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