In Iceland, work weeks of as little as four days have brought mental health benefits to workers and increased companies’ productivity.
‘Massive success’ – this is how Icelandic researchers describe the results of four-day workweeks, which were applied as part of a pilot test conducted in the country between 2015 and 2019, which reduced working hours for many workers – most of which went from 40 hours in Week to 35 or 36 hours.
During this period, Reykjavik City Council and the Icelandic government teamed up with trade unions to test work weeks for one day less. According to the results of the study, which were revealed on Monday, the experience was good for both employees, managers, and managers: People who worked fewer hours began to feel happier, but also just as much or, in some cases, more productive..
The study included 2,500 workers (equivalent to 1% of the population) from various fields of public service, such as offices, hospitals, kindergartens and social services. Those who worked from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday had only four working days and shift workers worked fewer hours per week. Wages remained the same.
“The results are very positive. Workers from different areas of the public sector are very happy with the new work-life balance, spending more time with family and doing more extracurricular activities – like riding a bike, taking up new hobbies and this way forward,” described researcher Will Strong, Director Participant of the British Ideas Lab Autonomy, for the BBC, who, together with the Icelandic Society for Sustainable Democracy, analyzed the trial data.
This analysis led to a joint report, launched in June, which notes that employees who took part in the trial showed “greater well-being, improved life-to-work relationships, and a greater spirit of collaboration at work – all while maintaining current performance and productivity standards.”
The researcher says the increased productivity is explained by the fact that workers were less likely to have work-related health problems, such as stress, burnout, anxiety and depression. After this pilot test, which reinforces the idea that shorter work weeks bring more benefits than losses, many unions have already begun to demand fewer hours.
Similar studies have already been done and are currently underway in other countries as well, including in Spain, where a pilot test similar to the Icelandic test is planned.
In Japan, for example, Microsoft tested four-day workweeks in 2019, which increased productivity by 40%. A year earlier, a New Zealand company (Unilever) relied on a 20% increase in such stock. And in the Swedish city of Gothenburg, the Chamber, in a nursing home, conducted between 2015 and 2016 a trial of six hours of work per day, which resulted in “more activities for the elderly and less sick leave” on the workers’ side, although the project was also criticized. He was forced to hire 17 additional nurses at a cost of nearly one million euros.