Working really hard but it just never seems to be enough? Like being on a conveyor belt – lots of effort but not getting anywhere. Long, relentless hours, even forgetting to eat because all everyone does is work, juggling lots of different tasks. The stress is obvious. And productivity doesn’t match the hours put in. Something needs to change!

This sad picture is one that’s really common across all businesses in all sectors up and down the country.

The Sad Stats

80% of people carry on working after they have left work for the day. 21% of people dread work – 32% within the millennial demographic. Burnout, work related stress and anxiety have shot through the roof. And UK employee engagement levels are significantly lower than our EU counterparts.

Research shows that once people work more than 40 hours a week they are less productive and it’s not a coincidence that UK productivity is lower than other G7 countries.

Do something different!

This particular business decided that accepting this as the norm wasn’t okay. They took control and tried something different. This is their story.

The Big Picture

They started by taking a step back and looking at what was happening within their business and their team and what they wanted to achieve. They wanted the team to be pulling together more effectively as a team. They wanted greater efficiency and subsequently greater innovation.

They got everyone together to discuss what the challenges were and what could be done. They wanted everyone to recognise that change was necessary and to be on board with it.

Digging deep, they explored their values, their brand and how that could and should influence how they would work.

Lagom – “not too much, not too little – just right”

There’s lots of different ideas about tackling workplace wellbeing and productivity out there. Their own research into different approaches to improving working environments had really connected with the Swedish philosophy “Lagom.” This means “Just enough – not too much, not too little”.


This philosophy is a different way of doing things in the UK, challenging the British norm. But it is a tried and tested approach within Sweden where even in the healthcare sector nurses work a shorter day because the benefits are so great.

What they did

Fundamentally they cut out all unproductive parts to their working day.

They then built a structure they called Rigid Flexibility into a shorter working day.

  • Short bursts of focused activity – 90 minutes – when each person works independently and no one speaks to anyone else (including clients)
  • Followed by a communal tea break at 10.30
  • Then 90 mins for short efficient standing meetings and open communication with colleagues and clients
  • Followed by a one hour lunchtime when everyone leaves the premises. No one was allowed to eat at the desk.
  • Removed targets as they create stress – instead worked out how long it takes to complete pieces of work

This pattern is repeated in the afternoon. The work day finishes at 4.15 – leaving time to do things outside of work. In fact people are encouraged to have a life outside of work.

The result

  • By identifying and cutting out the things that time is wasted on – they are much more efficient
  • One team now pulling together
  • Conversations within the team are deeper and more supportive instead of being superficial and interrupting other’s flow
  • Productivity is greater for a 6 hour working day than for a 8
  • Quality of work is continuously improving
  • High motivation and innovation levels
  • It’s now easier to recruit talented people
  • Business is booming

Implementing the changes

It took about 3 months to train yourself and each other. Everyone needs to take collective responsibility to ensure that the rules are adhered to. They found it hard at the start. The addiction to working was something that they had to wean themselves off.

18 months later the business has been transformed!

 This model meets so many things that people are struggling with in the workplace currently – overwhelm, not enough focus, feeling they arent making a difference, juggling too many things at once, lack of structure, the need to connect with others at a deeper level, the lack of connection between values and work and a toxic fear driven culture.

They say it would work in any workplace. Could it work in yours?

Adelle Shaw-Flach is a health professional who now works with business leaders to transform their culture into something where both business and individuals can prosper and thrive – by breaking the cycle of stress, burnout, poor productivity and turnover.

Get in touch for an informal conversation about how we can help you prosper and thrive in your workplace –

Discover the difference a Wellbeing in the Workplace programme could make to your organisation

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