Four-day working week trial found to be ‘an overwhelming success’
Trials of a four-day working week in Iceland have been an “overwhelming success” that led many workers to move to shorter hours, researchers have said.
Taking place between 2015 and 2019, workers were paid the same amount but worked fewer hours.
Researchers said productivity levels stayed the same or increased in the majority of workplaces involved in the trial.
The trials run by Reykjavík City Council and the Icelandic government eventually included upwards of 2,500 workers, accounting for about one percent of Iceland’s working population.
Many of the various workplaces, including preschools, offices, social service providers, and hospitals, moved from a 40 hour week to a 35 or 36 hours week, according to researchers from UK think tank Autonomy and the Association for Sustainable Democracy (Alda) in Iceland.
The trials also led unions to renegotiate working patterns, and 86 percent of Iceland’s workforce have now moved or will gain the right to move to shorter hours for the same pay, the researchers said.
Workers reported feeling less stressed, having a lower risk of burnout, and said their health and work-life balance had improved. They also said they had more time to spend with family, do hobbies, and complete chores around the house.
“This study shows that the world’s largest ever trial of a shorter working week in the public sector was by all measures an overwhelming success,” said Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy.
“It shows that the public sector is ripe for being a pioneer of shorter working weeks - and lessons can be learned for other governments.”
Gudmundur Haraldsson, a researcher at Alda, said: “The Icelandic shorter working week journey tells us that not only is it possible to work less in modern times, but that progressive change is possible too.”
A number of other trials are now being run around the world, with Spain pivoting to a four-day working week for companies and Unilever in New Zealand trialling a 20 percent reduction in work without affecting pay.