Trial of four day week in Iceland ‘an overwhelming success’

Around 86% of people in Iceland are now moving to shorter hours or will be given the right to do so.

In most cases, productivity stayed the same or increased.
In most cases, productivity stayed the same or increased.

Trials of a four-day working week in Iceland have been an “overwhelming success”, say researchers, leading to many employees moving to shorter hours permanently.

The trials took place between 2015 and 2019 and saw workers paid the same amount for working shorter hours. Productivity was found to remain the same or increase in the majority of workplaces.

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At a glance: 5 key points

- The trials took place in Reykjavík and included 2,500 workers.

- A range of different workplaces, including nurseries, offices and hospitals took part.

- Workers involved reported feeling less stressed and having a better work-life balance, while productivity mostly stayed the same or improved.

- The trials led to unions re-negotiating hours, with 86% of the workforce either moving to shorter hours for the same pay or gaining the right to.

- A number of other trials are now being run across the world, including in Spain and by Unilever in New Zealand.

What’s been said

Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy, said: "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."

Gudmundur Haraldsson, a researcher at Alda, said: "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."

Background

Trials will now be held in other countries, including Spain and New Zealand.

Large-scale trials have not been piloted in the UK.

However, a report commissioned by the 4 Day Week campaign from Platform London in May suggested that moving to shorter hours for workers could cut the UK’s carbon footprint.