A four-day workweek is to be tried in the UK after Iceland’s largest trial ever was called a “crushing success”.
According to one analysis, workers were found to be less stressed and had better work-life balance, while employers did not see any significant drop in productivity or service delivery.
Pilot program in Iceland found workers less stressed and anxious (file photo)[/caption]
Shorter working hours gave people more time to pursue other interests[/caption]
The trial, which ran from 2015 to 2019, enabled about 86 percent of Icelandic workers to negotiate contracts with permanently reduced hours.
Will Strong, research director at UK think tank Autonomy, said: “This study shows that the world’s largest trial of small workweeks in the public sector was a resounding success in every way.
“This shows that the public sector is ready to pursue shorter work weeks – and lessons can be learned for other governments.
“Iceland has taken a major step towards a four-day work week, which provides a great concrete example for local councils and the UK public sector to consider implementing it in the UK.”
The Icelandic experience initially involved only a few dozen public sector workers who were members of trade unions.
The pilot program found that workers’ productivity did not drop dramatically (file photo)[/caption]
But it expanded to include 2,500 public and private sector workers – representing one percent of the country’s workforce – as the lawsuit progressed.
According to a report released by Autonomy and the Icelandic Association for Sustainable Democracy, the participants in the trial included police, health workers, teachers, vendors and municipal workers.
Although the experiment was referred to as a “four-day week”, in reality most workers did not take a full day off, but aimed to reduce 40 to 35 or 36 hours per week.
The time saved at work has largely been achieved by moving to online services to cut down on unnecessary meetings, take shorter breaks and allow offices to close earlier.
Workers said that because of the time saved, they were able to organize their personal lives better, such as running errands in the afternoon or doing more household chores.
He also said that he has more time to see family and friends, and more time to relax or indulge in hobbies.
Workers said they felt less stressed and anxious both at home and at work.
The owners said that because they had to think carefully about how office hours were managed, it meant there was no significant drop in productivity compared to the ability to deliver services.
While workers worked fewer hours in some cases, productivity actually improved (file photo)[/caption]
In fact, in many cases, productivity has actually improved.
The number of overtime hours also remained stable, indicating that workers did not simply shift office functions to their spare time.
The cost to the boss has also not increased, except in the health sector, where it was necessary to hire more employees to cover working hours.
Researcher Gudmundur de Haraldsson from the Association for Sustainability and Democracy (Alda), said: “The shorter workweek commute in Iceland tells us that not only is it possible to do less work in modern times, but that gradual change is also possible.
“Our roadmap for a shorter work week in the public sector should be of interest to anyone who wants to see reduced working hours. “
A survey published by Survival in July last year found that 63 percent of the British public supported the idea of a four-day week without pay, while only 12 percent opposed it.
Spain launched a pilot program in March aimed at reducing the work week to 32 hours to see if it was possible to stimulate the country’s economy by lifting restrictions on the coronavirus and aiming to boost employment.
Employees of companies participating in the plan will strive to reduce their hours while maintaining the same level of remuneration.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has expressed support for a four-day working week, and the Scottish and Welsh governments have also formed committees to explore the idea.
Some economists, however, remain skeptical about the introduction of a four-day work week, arguing that the standard of living will drop.
Ricardo Mur, CEOE, one of Spain’s leading trade unions, said at a forum in December: “The way out of this crisis requires more work, not less.
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