Sweden Vs Silicon Valley

Has the 40 hour week had its day? We look at the working conditions in Gothenburg and Silicon valley to see how these vastly different working days compare?

There are companies in Sweden that have begun moving to a six-hour working day in a bid to increase productivity and to make people happier. Employers across the country have already made the change, with the aim to get more done in a shorter amount of time and to ensure people had the energy to enjoy their private lives. Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 is the schedule that the vast majority of people in salaried positions follow, and have followed for the past several decades. 40 hours of work each week is considered “full-time,” and it demands certain full-time benefits with any work done beyond those 40 hours usually considered overtime.

The traditional “9 to 5” day has become a familiar staple of office culture and work culture in general, but entrepreneurs and managers are starting to discover the flaws in such an employment model. So is the 40 hour working week about to become extinct? 

There’s been plenty of debate as to what set amount of working hours works the best and there are different countries and companies across the world having their own unique say on this.

Toyota's location in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, made the switch over 14 years ago, with the company reporting happier staff, a lower turnover rate, and an increase in profits during that time.

On the opposite end of the scale to this 6 hour a day working week that Sweden has adopted are companies based in the heart of Silicon Valley, the central hub of all things social media and forward thinking technology, which have been working 70+ hours a week as standard. Working these marathon hours has become part of Silicon Valley’s DNA. The drive, excitement, and intensity of the start-up culture, and indeed much of tech in general, has drawn thousands of people to this industry.

A recent survey found that of 1,200 American adults, 18 percent worked 60 hours or more every week, with another 21 percent claiming to work between 50 and 59 hours. 

Another 11 percent estimated between 41 and 49 hours per week, leaving a total of 50 percent of American adults working more than 40 hours every week. Occasionally, this is due to personal motivation, but more often it’s down to peer-pressure or pressure from upper management to stay later and work harder.

These people are the forward thinking ones who, in the past decade alone, have invented billion dollar companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Uber and Airbnb along with countless others. The problem with this culture is that this narrow focus of work-as-life massively favours the young, especially young men—and disadvantages ambitious women who want to have children.

Of course there are pros and cons to what both Sweden and Silicon Valley are doing with their different styles of working hours and subsequent work ethic. There’s companies in Sweden that are thriving with people working 6 hours a day and companies on the other side of the Atlantic that are turning over billions when they’re working 60+ hours a week. 

It’s extremely hard to define which side of this is better but there’s one very eye opening comparison that shows the impact that Sweden is having on the big hitters of Silicon Valley. 
When Apple, the Silicon Valley veteran that revolutionised the music industry by unbundling the physical album and allowed individual digital song downloads, announced the launch of Apple Music, the implications were immense.

The world’s most valuable business was pretty much admitting that a six-and-a-half-year-old company started by a 23-year-old from Stockholm had it right all along.

The day after Apple Music was launched, that Swedish start-up company – Spotify – unveiled a mammoth $526m funding round, and subsequently reached a valuation of $8.53bn, which helped cement its place as the most valuable venture capital-backed company in Europe.

Sweden and Spotify in particular have already taken on Silicon Valley’s crown jewel in Apple, will they soon be forcing Silicon Valley and other companies around the world to adopt their reduced working hours routine? 

Who knows, but either way there’s intriguing times ahead for the stereotypical 40 hour working week and that’s down to both what Silicon Valley and Sweden have done with their progressive views on working hours.

  • Mike Carter

    Passionate about Orchard, business, technology, and my two little men.


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