You might have been too busy blowing your top about your current job to read about the latest international job news, but it was announced earlier this week that Sweden is looking to shift its work day from eight hours to six hours. With a rollout to begin soon in the city of Gothenburg, the six-hour workday could go nationwide if Gothenburg's year-long trial is successful.
"People have long work lives, and it's necessary to think of ways to create a more humane environment for them in the workplace," Gothenburg councillor Mats Pilhem told Swedish news outlet The Local.
The news comes on the heels of a recent buzzed-about Business Insider story and NYT op-ed about "Why Americans Hate Their Jobs." After a Gallup poll from the end of last year revealed that 70 percent of Americans felt serious dissatisfaction with their jobs, a consulting firm called the Energy Project sought to understand why. The biggest reasons people cited for overall disgruntlement? An increasing demand for output and a lack of human-centricity and social value at work.
According to the Energy Project's findings, only 36 percent of America's workers feel their work is meaningful or significant. And only 25 percent are connected to their company's mission. (Caveat: The survey respondents were mostly in "white-collar" office jobs.)
What's more, the recession changed how we work (harder, faster, with more fear of losing our job), and it put the brakes on flexible workplaces, which were part of a growing trend 10 years ago and viewed as key to increasing workplace satisfaction and innovation. According to a recent employer study released by the Families and Work Institute, since 2008, employers have become less likely to provide reduced hours options and career flexibility.
So how can employers increase workplace satisfaction at at time when it's historically low? According to the Energy Project, it starts with a cultural shift, in which employers strive to create real value, both emotional and social, within the workplace.
So while we wait for the cultural shift to happen, there are a few things we can do to increase workplace happiness. We can start by taking our vacations, that is if you're one of the lucky ones to be part of the 65 percent of American workers who get paid vacation time.
Despite the fact that it's theirs, recent studies show that Americans aren't taking the vacation time they're owed, mostly due to an increased workload and fear of losing their job. At the end of 2011, 57 percent of American workers had unused vacation time. In a typical year, there are 175 million vacation days American workers are entitled to, but don't take.175 million vacation days. That's more than 479,000 years of vacation time.
I'm not sure what that means on the whole space-time continuum, but I'm pretty certain that it equals a Cosmos-like number of toes not being dipped into lakes and ears that never hear lonely loon calls (or neighbors blasting Journey's Greatest Hits) every summer.