In our everyday work life in today's faster society, more and more people are starting to experience the effects of overwork and burnout. Even though a heavy work schedule is seen and encouraged in many countries, others want to find a better alternative for a more balanced and fulfilling life. They want to keep all their residents happier and healthier.
In a recent study completed in Iceland, scientists tested the effects of implementing a four-day workweek with no reduction in pay. Large-scale trials were conducted from 2015 to 2019, where work hours were reduced from 40 hours a week to just 35 or 36 hours a week, and the results were more positive than expected.
The research was led by Autonomy – a think tank based in the UK – and Iceland's Association for Sustainability and Democracy (ALDA).
The social experiment was conducted with over 2,500 workers, which makes up over 1% of Iceland's entire workforce. The subjects that participated were employed in a variety of careers and working environments. These included hospitals, daycare centres, offices, shops, etc.
The results from the study were encouraging to see. Researchers collected data on various markers during the trials, including work performance, work-life balance, and overall wellbeing. Analysing the data, researchers found that, despite the shorter workweek, employees maintained or even increased their productivity at work. The workers also showed several other benefits during the trials. Things like improved work-life balance, less stress and more energy for outside activities, household chores, and hobbies. They even had more time for themselves and to spend with their families.
And, to make the results even more surprising, these positive outcomes were especially significant within single-parent households.
Will this study help decrease overworked and burnout in working people? And will life for the rest of us around the world be healthier?
🆕🆕NEW REPORT— Autonomy (@Autonomy_UK) July 4, 2021
Going Public: Iceland's Journey to a Shorter Working Week
From 2015-2019, Iceland ran 2 large trials of a reduced working week. They were an overwhelming success.
Read @joncstone's write-up in the @Independent: https://t.co/68uHPuuKkh
Report link below. pic.twitter.com/1JIHd3HDz9
Will Stronge, the director of research at Autonomy, explained it as follows. "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."
"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". This was the conclusion by ALDA researcher Gudmundur D. Haraldsson.
After the trial's success, the four-day workweek has been implemented more widely throughout Iceland. This has led to 86 percent of the country's workforce adopting a shorter working week.
Even though Iceland isn't the first country to push for a shorter workweek, its success is definitely an encouraging step forward. It has paved the road to how this change could help Iceland keep its workers safe and healthier.