Trial Making Incredible Change To The Working Week An ‘Overwhelming Success’
A trial of more than 1% of the Icelandic working population tested a shift in the working week, and it significantly improved productivity.
The trial was the largest of its kind in the world; launched by Reykjavik city council and the Icelandic national government, it took place between 2015 to 2019 and involved more than 2,500 people. The workers involved ranged from those who work nine-to-five to more irregular shift patterns.
Most significantly, the trial of a four day week saw people work 35-36 hours a week for the same amount of pay. The think-tanks Autonomy in the UK and the Association for Sustainability and Democracy (Alda) in Iceland found the reduction in workdays had benefits in several areas.
The benefits that were recorded during this period, including boosted productivity and wellbeing, have led to discussions about permanent changes in Iceland and the UK.
Icelandic trade union federations have already started negotiations to reduce the number of days worked by employees. This will add to changes that have started in Icelandic workplaces. New agreements struck between 2019 and 2021 saw 86% of Iceland’s working population have reduced hours or flexibility without sacrificing their wage, The Independent reports.
Gudmundur D. 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.
Our roadmap to a shorter working week in the public sector should be of interest to anyone who wishes to see working hours reduced.
Researchers from the UK also saw the benefits of a shorter week being introduced. Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy, noted that it was an ‘overwhelming success’ and ‘shows that the public sector is ripe for being a pioneer of shorter working weeks’. The director of research noted that Iceland had taken ‘a big step’ and provided ‘a great real-life example for local councils and those in the UK public sector considering implementing it here in the UK’.
Several UK parties, including Labour, SNP, Plaid Cymru, the SDLP and the Green Party are in the process of signing an early day motion to get the government to consider a four day week proposal.
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