Independent non-profit organizations Autonomy and Alda have published a detailed report on the results of an experiment to introduce a four-day work week in Iceland. More than 1% of the total working-age population of the country took part in it, and the result turned out to be "an overwhelming success."
To date, the Icelandic experiment is the largest of its kind in the world. From 2015 to 2019, about two and a half thousand people took part in it, that is, just over 1% of all jobs in Iceland. Instead of the usual five days a week and no less than 40 hours, these people worked four days and 35-36 hours. At the same time, wages and other working conditions remained at the same level.
As a result, as follows from a recently published report, the productivity of the workers involved in the experiment either remained the same as before, or increased altogether. The negative effects of this approach were encountered in an overwhelming minority of cases. At the same time, the study participants talked about a radical improvement in well-being and life satisfaction.
Among the most common benefits of a four-day work week, they noted:
- less stress and risk of burnout;
- improving both physical and mental health;
- the emergence of additional time to interact with the family;
- it became easier to distinguish between work and personal life;
- there were strength and opportunities to engage in a hobby.
As part of the experiment, participants were selected from preschool teachers, office workers, social workers and hospitals. After reviewing the final report and discussing it at a wide variety of levels, including government bodies, the four-day workweek will become the standard for Iceland. With direct pressure from trade unions, 86% of jobs in the country are either transferred to such a regime, or their employees have the right to choose between two options (the old and the new).
The Icelandic government and the Reykjavik City Council have initiated testing of the positive effects of the introduction of the four-day work week. Autonomy and Alda provided data collection, analysis and consulting. The first is a British think tank, specializing in economic planning, the future of work, and collaborating with the world's leading institutions in these areas. Alda, in turn, is an association that promotes and develops the ideas of sustainable (in every sense, including "environmental friendliness") democracy. The declared goals of both organizations are focused on improving the quality of life of ordinary people.
Experiments similar to Icelandic have not been carried out for the first time, and not for the last time either. As part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Spanish government has invited commercial companies to introduce a shorter working week. The initiative should simultaneously stabilize the epidemiological situation and show how business efficiency changes with this approach.
And the New Zealand division of Unilever Corporation, on its own initiative, is conducting an experiment to reduce the number of working hours per week by 20% while maintaining wages. Finally, the British government is considering using the four-day week, among other benefits, as a means of reducing the country's carbon footprint.