Four-day week trials hailed a success

Working four days a week on full pay seems the Holy Grail. Now two large-scale pilots in Iceland have the data to show the impact.

Two large-scale trials of a four-day week on full pay conducted in Iceland have been hailed a success.

From 2015-2019, Iceland ran two large-scale trials of a reduced working week of 35-36 hours with no reduction in pay. The results have been analysed in a joint project by Autonomy and the research organisation Association for Sustainability and Democracy (Alda) in Iceland.

The pilots included 2,500 workers – over 1% of Iceland’s entire working population. The results suggest productivity and service provision remained the same or improved across the majority of trial workplaces. Moreover, worker wellbeing dramatically increased across a range of indicators, from perceived stress and burnout, to health and work-life balance.

Since completion 86% of the country’s workforce are now working shorter hours or have gained the right to shorten their hours, says Autonomy.

It adds that, with the trials remaining revenue neutral for both the city council and the government, they can provide a blueprint of how future trials might be organised in other countries around the world.

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.

“Iceland has taken a big step towards the four-day working week, providing a great real-life example for Local Councils and those in the UK public sector considering implementing it here in the UK.”

Gudmundur D. Haraldsson, a researcher at Alda and co-author of the report, added: “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.”

The news come after the launch earlier in the summer of a global petition for a four-day week on the same pay and benefits as a full-time job by the 4-day week Global Foundation. The petition will also help the group discover which companies have the most employees eager to pilot a four-day week and they will use it to select workplaces to trial a four-day week at the beginning of 2022. The pilots will include business support, advice and mentoring to help companies roll out the scheme across their workplaces.

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