World's Largest Four-Day Workweek Trial in Iceland an 'Overwhelming Success'

The majority of workers in Iceland already have the option to shorten their working weeks.
Chris Young
Reykjavik, Icelandpatpongs/iStock

The world's workers may be on the verge of a paradigm shift fueled by changing attitudes to work amid the pandemic and the latest in a number of successful and ongoing trials for shorter working weeks.

Trials for a four-day workweek in Iceland were called an "overwhelming success" by researchers, and they have already led to employees working shorter hours in the country, a report by the BBC explains.

Four-day workweek led to improved productivity

The Iceland trials, which took place between 2015 and 2019, follow another successful trial run by Microsoft in Japan in 2019, which saw a 39.9 percent boost in productivity.

In Iceland, workers were paid the same amount for shorter working hours, with the workers moving from a 40-hour workweek to a 35 or 36 hour week.

Following the trials, researchers concluded that productivity stayed the same or improved in the majority of workplaces.

The trials, run by Reykjavík City Council and the Icelandic government, were conducted on over 2,500 workers — approximately 1 percent of Iceland's working population — making them the world's largest four-day workweek trials to date.

'Lessons can be learned for other governments'

In a press statement, the Association for Sustainable Democracy (Alda) in Iceland said that 86 percent of Iceland's workforce have already moved to shorter hours for the same pay, or will have the right to do so, as a result of the trials.

Alda said that "worker wellbeing dramatically increased across a range of indicators, from perceived stress and burnout, to health and work-life balance."

UK based think-tank Autonomy, who worked on the trials alongside Alda, also released a statement in which their director of research, Will Stronge, said "the world's largest-ever trial of a shorter working week in the public sector was by all measures an overwhelming success.

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"It shows that the public sector is ripe for being a pioneer of shorter working weeks - and lessons can be learned for other governments."

Other four-day week trials

Other four-day workweek trials have recently started in Spain and New Zealand. As per The Guardian, while campaigning for the trial, politicians in Spain highlighted the fact that it is one of the country's with the longest average workweeks in Europe, but it is not amongst the most productive.

Unilever in New Zealand has also announced it will give staff the opportunity to cut their hours by 20 percent without affecting their pay, as part of a trial.

Just last month, no doubt informed by Microsoft's successful trial in 2019, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced a new policy that will allow workers to choose to do a four-day workweek.

All of these trials, as well as the impact of the pandemic on our working lives, may well lead to widespread adoption of the clearly successful four-day week.

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