If you're already yearning for the weekend, good news: it could all be about to change. Researchers are calling for the four-day week to be tested in the UK after the "overwhelming success" of the world's largest ever trial in Iceland.
More than one per cent of Iceland's working population took part in the radical pilot programme, which ditched the five-days-on / two-days-off formula and slashed the working week to around 35 hours. The best part? The employees' pay wasn't decreased.
Even though Iceland has a relatively low population – just 2,500 people took part in total – it's still the biggest and most significant study of its kind ever undertaken. And it had some pretty compelling findings. Think tanks in Iceland and the UK found that employees were not only happier but also more efficient when they were on the clock.
The trials, which ran between 2015 and 2019, were found to improve work-life balance, and neutralise stress and feelings of burnout, and boost productivity and wellbeing across the board. So there's truth in the "work smarter, not harder" adage.
Incredibly, the results are already leading to powerful changes. Iceland's trade unions, which negotiate wages and working conditions for most workers in the country, have already started to negotiate agreements that permanently cut hours following the scheme.
In fact, as a result of new agreements struck between 2019 and 2021, it's estimated that 86 per cent of the country's entire working population now either work less hours or have flexibility within their contracts to reduce hours. (continued below)
Offices, play-schools, hospitals and social services were just a handful of the workplaces included in the eminently successful trial. And it wasn't just those on nine-to-five working hours – workers with non-standard shift patterns were included in the mix, too.
The joint analysis, carried out by Autonomy in the UK and the Association for Sustainability and Democracy (Alda) in Iceland, revealed that workers' well-being improved dramatically across the board without sacrificing productivity. In fact, service provision remained the same or improved across the most workplaces.
"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," says 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.
"Iceland has taken a big step towards the four-day working week, providing a great real-life example for local councils and those in the UK public sector considering implementing it here in the UK."
For any "But what about the economy?" naysayers out there, the trials were designed to be revenue-neutral for both Reykjavik city council and the Icelandic national government which ran them.
"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," said Gudmundur D. Haraldsson, a researcher at Alda. "Our roadmap to a shorter working week in the public sector should be of interest to anyone who wishes to see working hours reduced."
You Might Also Like