A four-day working week trial in Iceland was an ‘overwhelming success’ and should be considered in the UK, researchers say.
The study, arranged by Reykjavík City Council and the Icelandic government, took place between 2015 and 2019, with more than 2,500 workers involved – equating to just over one percent of the country’s working population.
Employees from a range of workplaces such as offices, playschools and hospitals took part and reduced their hours from a 40-hour working week to 35-36 hours per week while receiving the same pay.
Autonomy, and the research organisation Association for Sustainability and Democracy (Alda) in Iceland, compiled a report outlining the findings of the study and found that the wellbeing of workers who took part improved dramatically across a range of indicators.
According to Alda, participants were suffering less with ‘perceived stress and burnout, to health and work-life balance’.
Despite initial concerns that a shorter working week would unintentionally hinder productivity, the results of the trials ‘directly contradict this,’ the research found.
“Productivity and service provision remained the same or improved across the majority of trial workplaces,” claim Alda.
The trials have resulted in unions renegotiating working hours, and about 86 percent of Iceland’s entire working population has now either moved to working shorter hours or have gained the right to shorten their working hours.
Researchers are now suggesting that the UK should consider testing out a four-day working week following the success of the study.
Campaigners in the UK have been pushing for shorter working weeks for years and are now petitioning to change the existing working model.
A group called the 4 Day Week Campaign created a petition that needs 50,000 signatures before being discussed in parliament. They say it would ‘benefit our society, our economy, our environment and our democracy’.
Based on numerous reports, a number of other trials are now being run across the world, including in Spain and by Unilever in New Zealand.
Alda researcher Gudmundur D. Haraldsson commented: “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.”
Words by Emily Brewster
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