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05th Jul 2021

World’s largest ever four day week trial ‘overwhelming success’

Kieran Galpin

Less work, more productivity

Four-day working weeks are a huge topic of discussion at the moment. As restrictions begin t0 life, remote working is an increasingly demanded option for many professional sectors. A social study in Iceland was a huge success, with other countries not set to follow their example.

Over 2,500 participants reduced their working hours to around thirty-five hours but did not take any pay decrease as a result. The study ran from 2015 to 2019 and has seen a dramatic increase in productivity, mental wellbeing, and overall performance. Icelandic trade union federations have now begun to discuss permanently implementing the changes.

Researchers estimate that as of 2019-2021, 86 per cent of people now have reduced hours or flexibility woven into their contracts. Analysis of the data was carried out by the UK think tank Autonomy and the Association for Sustainability and Democracy (Alda) in Iceland. They found that stress and burnout were dramatically decreased, while a work-life balance increased.

Gudmundur D. Haraldsson, a researcher at Alda, spoke about their findings:

“The Icelandic 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,”

“Our roadmap to a shorter working week in the public sector should be of interest to anyone who wishes to see working hours reduced.”

Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy, also commented on the research:

“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.