Trials of a shorter, four-day working week in Iceland made workers less stressed and reduced the risk of burnout, with no negative effect on productivity or service provision.
Among the workplaces involved in the trials, productivity and service provision either stayed the same or even improved. The trials carried out in 2015 and 2017 included 2,500 public sector workers, accounting for over 1 percent of Iceland’s entire working population.
The workers involved moved from working 40 hours a week to 35 or 36 hours a week while their pay remained the same.
In 2021, 86 percent of Icelandic workers were either working shorter weeks or had contracts enabling them to reduce their hours.
“The overarching picture that emerges is that the Icelandic trials strongly challenge the idea that a reduction in working hours will lower service provision,” the report said.
Researchers from Iceland’s Association for Sustainable Democracy (Alda) and UK think tank Autonomy analyzed the results from the trials, which were initiated by the Icelandic government and Reykjavik City Council after campaigning by trade unions.
They found that workers taking part in the trials reported a “powerful positive effect on work-life balance”.
These included having more time to spend with their children or pursuing hobbies.
It shows that the public sector is ripe for being a pioneer of shorter working weeks – and lessons can be learned for other governments.