Can reduction in working hours result in better productivity?

Cyber Journal 24, March 24, 2016

By Nitten Gokhaley 

Sweden-based internet startup-Brath-has recently made it in the headlines. Well, not because of their product, but because of their employee-friendly working hours policy. The company introduced its six-hour working day policy three years ago, right after its formation. Company’s boss Maria Brath recently interacted with journalists and shared her opinion that employees are her company’s most valuable possession. She suggests that lesser working hours give a competitive advantage to her organization. Thanks to shorter working hours, employees won’t think about going elsewhere even if they receive better compensation offer.


According to Maria Brath, company’s Örnsköldsvik and Stockholm offices have overall 22 staff members. Staff works for six hours per day, but their productivity is equal to productivity achieved by competitor’s staff after working for eight hours. Maria believes that creativity can last for six hours, but probably, it cannot last for eight hours.

Stockholm, Sweden-based- Filimundus is another startup that follows six-hour working day policy. The company is in app development, and its CEO Linus Feldt suggests that lesser working hours help employees to focus more on work. He believes that time is equal to money, and employees really appreciate that they go home two hours early every day. This also motivates them to work more efficiently.

Even Google’s Larry Page had shared similar opinion last year. He had said that people love their work, but they also need time to deal with personal problems, pursue own interest, and spend time with family.  Reducing working hours or reducing number of working days in week may prove helpful for people to balance their work and professional life.

People cannot work for longer hours like computers: Tony Schwartz

Researcher, author, and the Energy Project’s CEO Tony Schwartz had highlighted this issue in one of his columns written for Harvard Business Review, back in 2011. His column focused on ideas that can help companies to improve their employees’ performance.


Tony Schwartz

Tony Schwartz pointed out that companies can get more work completed within lesser number of hours by helping employees to manage their energy more skillfully. It is important for individuals to make sure that they rhythmically renew their body’s energy after spending it. Humans cannot work continuously like computers, the author pointed out.  People are just like organisms containing energy that needs to be charged every day.

“People should take a break after working intensely for 90 minutes”

While sharing his opinion about attrition and companies that prefer replacing people, Schwartz pointed out that an employee starts showing impressive performance after spending five to seven years. But people may not spend much time in an organization that starts pushing employees to their limits from day one. So, companies that replace their staff after every year or two are at the losing end.

Indian point of view

Indians seem to have a different point of view. T Shivaram, HR head for SAP Labs India recently interacted with media and shared his opinion about reducing number of working hours/ weekly working days. He suggests that changing working-hours cycle may negatively influence industries like healthcare, retail, entertainment, customer service. He also suggested something that most of the Indians would not agree. He believes that India is poor on productivity. Indian workers work for five to six days in order to complete work that Americans may finish in just three days.

India is still in dark ages as far as labour policies are concerned?

Study conducted by University College London’s professor Mika Kivimaki recently pointed out that working for more than eight hours a day can increase risk of heart attack by 33 percent. Lifestyle of around 6, 00,000 was studied as part of this study that was published in The Lancet. But, it appears as if MNCs like IBM, Accenture, TCS (BPO), and even small companies in India do not care about their employees’ health.

Here is one case study-

Employee working with TCS (BPO) Pune informs his manager about health issues and also sends his medical documents. In return his manager asked him to come to office and talk to him about the same.




(This is their Whatsapp conversation. Name of the employee and manager has been withheld, you can get in touch with me for more details)

Now if this person is facing serious health issues, how can the organization expect him to travel 40 KM to come to office and meet his manager next day? This is the kind of unprofessional anti-employee work culture that companies follow in India.

If you think small startups can offer better work environment, you may prove to be wrong, as some companies do not even give weekly off to their employees.

Work more

To make the situation even worse for employees, Madhya Pradesh government had recently asked the central government to amend and increase number of weekly working hours to 72 from 60. So, to put it in simple words, MP BJP government wants to allow companies to increase working hours to 12 hours per day. Fortunately, this proposal was rejected by the Modi government.

Indians work tirelessly, even during religiously significant festivals and national holidays like 26th January and 15th August. Government does ask (large) companies to submit copies of attendance registers and details about holidays availed by employees. But perhaps, no one from labour or HR ministry reads these documents to check if companies are allowing employees to avail paid holidays or not. There is no one to check how employees are being treated at their workplace in India. Unfortunately, every employee cannot hire corporate lawyer to represent his/her case in the court, labour department, etc. to highlight his/her employer’s wrongdoings.


Nitten is a consultant journalist, and has worked with renowned newspapers, news agency in India. If you are looking for desktop journalist, you can email Nitten-

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