The world’s largest ever trial of a four-day working week and reduced working time in Iceland was an “overwhelming success."
More than 1 percent of Iceland’s working population took part in the pilot programme which cut the working week to 35-36 hours with no reduction in overall pay, and ran from 2015 to 2019.
Workers covered by the experiment included a mix of nine-to-five employees and those on non-standard shift patterns - with workplaces including offices, play-schools, hospitals, and social services employees.
It involved more than 2,500 people, and joint analysis by think tanks in Iceland and the UK found it boosted productivity and wellbeing and has already lead to permanent changes.
Icelandic trade union federations, which collectively negotiate wages and conditions for most Icelandic employees, have already begun to negotiate reduced working hours as a result. The researchers estimate that as a result of new agreements struck in 2019-2021 after the trials ended, 86 percent of Iceland’s entire working population now either have reduced hours or flexibility within their contracts to reduce hours.
The joint analysis found that the well-being of workers who took part improved dramatically across a range of indicators. Perceived stress and burnout, as well as health and work-life balance were significantly improved across practically all groups. As a result, researchers say, productivity and service provision remained the same or improved across the majority of workplaces included in the trial.
One of the lead researchers said: “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. It shows that the public sector is ripe for being a pioneer of shorter working weeks - and lessons can be learned for other governments."