Do a bunch of these words describe your company? Innovation, opportunity, growth, caring, achievement, adaptable, purpose, flexibility.

If they do, then your organization might be considered progressive.

Think about your definition of a progressive employer, and whether the following fits with it.

A few years ago a number of organizations in Sweden trimmed down the standard eight-hour workday to six hours. Among the participants were advertising, consulting and technology firms and a municipal retirement home.

Debate continues as to whether the experiment was a success.

Many workers involved with the two-year trial at the retirement home in Gothenburg reported having more energy, feeling healthier overall (longer working hours are associated with heart disease and stroke), taking less sick leave, increased productivity and improved morale. At the Svartedalens home where 70 assistant nurses worked the shorter day, those same workers organized 85 per cent more social activities for their patients, including nature walks and sing-a-longs.

Detractors say the increased costs — the nurses received the same salary as they did when working eight-hour days and extra nurses were hired to fill the gaps — weren’t worth it, even though the retirement home didn’t have to hire as many replacements to cover sick time, and the increased number of hires meant fewer people who were unemployed.

The Toyota Services centre in the same city switched to six-hour workdays in 2002, with workers at the factory noting they are happier, while administrators report a lower turnover rate, an increase in profits, fewer mistakes and decreased accidents.

Dr. Aram Seddigh, who studied at the Stockholm University Stress Research Institute, said the six-hour workday trial is most effective in the types of jobs where employees complete their work and go home, such as hospitals. He said it would likely be less effective for organizations where the distinction between work and private life is not as well defined.

Sweden isn’t the only place to try shorter workdays. Agent Marketing in the United Kingdom implemented six-hour workdays in 2016, finding that productivity has increased and staff more carefully plan their days to make sure they’re productive in the briefer time span.

In the United States, Amazon introduced a 30-hour work week for some employees, and SteelHouse, a sales and marketing company, initiated at least one three-day weekend each month.

Flexibility in working hours is among the ways companies can become progressive. But organizations should keep in mind that one size doesn’t fit all. Embracing this concept means finding what works best for your company and your employees.

Progressive employers welcome change and innovation. They set trends instead of following them.

They have values, vision and planning, they work hard at enhancing the work environment and positively impacting the communities they serve, they use technology to their best advantage, they think about how they treat their employees and how to make them happy at work.

The idea for the Post-It Note was developed during ‘15 per cent time,’ a program offered at 3M, which allows employees to use time during their workday to explore ideas outside of their normal duties. Google employees can also spend 20 per cent of their paid time doing this. Both of these companies are considered to be progressive.

Consider things you can do to make your workplace more progressive, such as:

  • Providing benefits
  • Giving recognition
  • Pension or RRSP contributions
  • Assisting with transportation costs
  • Free or subsidized gym memberships
  • Discounts on merchandise or services
  • Additional paid or unpaid vacation
  • Bonuses
  • Training, professional development opportunities
  • Time off for volunteering, community service
  • Flexible schedules
  • Working from home all or part of the time

Velsoft’s latest softskills course is Becoming a Progressive Employer. It examines what it means to be progressive and how to develop or enhance this mindset, discusses the process involved, looks at a business case of a progressive employer and helps owners understand the importance of a succession plan.

What will you do to make your place of business more progressive?