Home / News / World /  Iceland reduces working hours but maintains productivity and pay

A four-day work week has been an "overwhelming success" in Iceland with the majority of the labour force switching to work fewer hours without affecting their productivity, according to researchers in the country.

A study was conducted between 2015 and 2019 in the Iceland national government and capital Reykjavík's City Council, part of which over 2,500 workers -- about 1 per cent of the Nordic nation's working population -- were paid the same as before but for fewer hours in duty, the BBC reported, quoting a report by U.K.-based think tank Autonomy and Iceland's Association for Sustainable Democracy.

Productivity levels rose or remained the same in the majority of the workplaces, researchers said.

Following the success of the study, a number of similar trials have begun across the world, including in Spain and New Zealand, the BBC said in its report.

The study noted that most people shifted from a work week of about 40 hours to one of 35-36 hours.

However, the productivity levels could be managed with the help of rearranged shifts, junking unnecessary tasks, evolving methods to complete tasks with greater speed, reducing length of meetings and in some cases replacing meetings with e-mails.

Eventually, more sectors in Iceland were involved in the four-day week schedule starting with pre-schools, offices, social service providers and hospitals.

Presently, 86 per cent of Iceland's workforce is either working fewer hours for the same pay or they are gaining the right to do so, the British broadcaster reported.

The study findings noted that workers benefit with the feeling of less stress, reduced risk of burnout, improved overall health, better work-life balance, more time with families, for hobbies and for household chores.

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."

Spain is piloting a four-day week for companies as part of the new management rules during the coronavirus pandemic, the BBC said.

British multinational consumer goods company Unilever is conducting a similar study in New Zealand, where workers can reduce their duty hours by upto 20 per cent without any reduction in pay.

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