There is excellent news for all of you who are overworked and tired of working long hours at your job. The findings of the longest trial of a shorter workweek were overwhelmingly positive. Iceland conducted the world’s largest trial of a shortened workweek from 2015 to 2019. This week, the analysis of the results was made public, and surprise! Everyone was healthier, happier, and more productive as a result of the changes.
The Association for Sustainability and Democracy (Alda) in Iceland and the UK think tank Autonomy collaborated on the paper, noting that Iceland’s experience might serve as a model for future trials worldwide.
Will Stronge, Autonomy’s director of research, observed, “By all accounts, the world’s largest-ever trial of a reduced working week in the public sector was an extraordinary success.” According to the paper, “it demonstrates that the public sector is well-equipped to lead in shortened workweeks, with lessons for other governments to learn.”
According to the research, around 86 percent of Iceland’s working population has “now either transitioned to working fewer hours or gained the right to work shorter hours,” with such reductions secured in contracts negotiated between 2019 and 2021.
Employees from various professions switched from a 40-hour workweek to a shorter 35- or 36-hour workweek as part of the trial without a pay cut. Reykjavik City Council and Iceland’s national government conducted two trials in Iceland.
The former employed almost 2,500 people, while the latter engaged 440, accounting for more than 1% of the country’s workforce. This includes workers on non-conventional shift times, as were those who work traditional nine-to-five occupations. It includes employees from workplaces, kindergartens, social service providers, and hospitals.
Despite concerns that a shorter workweek would unintentionally lead to overwork, the findings of the studies “strongly reject this,” according to the study. Instead, employees worked fewer hours as a “direct result” of employers adopting new work habits.
The results of the experiments were extremely positive. Businesses show constant or better productivity. There was an improvement in worker’s physical and mental well-being. Employees had more time to spend on housework, hobbies, and their families, which lowered stress and burnout while improving health and work-life balance. Both managers and employees praised the trials as a big success.
Businesses experimented with a number of time-saving strategies to meet the decreased work hours. These include more effective job delegation and prioritizing, shorter and to-the-point meetings. Also, this means that meetings that could have been emailed were now emails.
As Alda researcher Gudmundur D Haraldsson said, “The shorter workweek in Iceland demonstrates that it is possible to work less in modern times. And that progressive transformation is also conceivable,”