Finland’s new Prime Minister Sanna Marin has indicated that she plans to shift her nation towards a four-day working week, comprised of six-hour working days.
In comments she made in her previous role as minister for transport, Marin said: “A four-day workweek, a six-hour workday. Why couldn’t it be the next step? Is eight hours really the ultimate truth? I believe people deserve to spend more time with their families, loved ones, hobbies and other aspects of life, such as culture. This could be the next step for us in working life.”
Marin’s remarks were unearthed on 2 January by online political journal New Europe,  and picked up by UK national papers this morning.  At 34, Marin is the world’s youngest sitting Prime Minister, and has already used her position to push for fresh ideas in her country – particularly greater technological advancement.
In an analysis of Marin’s comments on the working week for business journal Grit Daily,  editor-at-large Julia Sachs writes: “In Finland, much like in the United States, it is customary to work eight hours per day, five days per week. But with the level of efficiency that current technology provides, is an eight-hour day and five-day week too much to expect of modern employees?”
Sachs notes: “In the digital age, where co-working spaces are replacing traditional offices and more companies are moving towards remote workers to give their employees more freedom, workers are able to get more work done than ever before – and in much less time.”
She adds: “While many would argue that they feel less productive in the digital age, the reality is that we are simply able to get much more done in much less time than ever before. Apps like Slack and Asana have replaced the traditional inter-office memo, email threads, and even meetings and conference calls.”
In its coverage of Marin’s remarks, New Europe points out that flexible working is already enshrined in Finnish law under the 1996 Working Hours Pact, which enables employees to adjust their hours by starting or finishing up to three hours earlier or later than the times stipulated in their contracts. In Sweden, meanwhile, the six-hour working day has been in force since 2015.
Is Marin’s aim the logical next step that she claims it is?
The Institute of Leadership & Management’s head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “If trends continue in the way they have, the working week will reduce. So, in terms of the hours that people will be required to work, a four-day week is a likely prospect for many professions. As Sachs suggests, we must also factor in the benefits of various technologies, which are enabling people to slash their reliance on commuting and work together online. Increasingly, workers no longer need to travel to organisational premises – productive teamwork is migrating out of the bricks-and-mortar setting and into cyberspace.
“On that basis, I would say that Marin’s vision of a four-day week is not merely viable but, in many cases, inevitable.”
For further insights on the themes raised in this blog, check out the Institute’s report Flexible Working: Goodbye nine to five