According to the results of a study conducted by the Association for Sustainable Democracy (Alda) in Iceland and U.K.-based thinktank Autonomy, the four-day workweek, as tested in Iceland, has been an “overwhelming success.” From 2015 to 2019, 2,500 workers in Iceland participated in the trial, working between 35 and 36 hours per week in a variety of settings, including offices and hospitals.
The trials were initiated by Iceland’s government and the Reykjavík City Council. Workers received full pay, and there was no loss in productivity. Worker wellbeing improved, based on a variety of factors, including perceived stress and burnout as well as health and work-life balance. As a result of the study, 86% of Iceland’s workforce have now experienced permanent reductions in working hours or will soon gain the right to.
“The Iceland 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,” Gudmundur Haraldsson, a researcher at Alda, told the BBC.
Workers say that the new schedule allowed them more time to run errands, socialize and exercise. They were also able to reconnect with their families.
“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,” Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy, said in a statement. “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 countries are also experimenting with a reduction in working hours. In May 2021, Spain approved plans for a trial of a four-day workweek. New Zealand and Canada have also tested similar policies.
“[Workers] kind of had a greater energy on the job and actually enjoyed their work a bit more,” Stronge said during an appearance on CBC Radio’s “As It Happens.” “Which sounds very rosy — but that is what comes out of a lot of these trials, is that people feel actually more attached to the job. In a way, they feel rewarded by having more time.”