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2,500 people worked four-day weeks: Here’s what happened

·2-min read
Aerial view of pedestrians in Reykvavik, empty office space.
Iceland just completed a huge 2,500 worker experiment. (Images: Getty).

Workers doing four-day weeks maintained the same productivity and improved their wellbeing, a study of 2,500 people across Iceland has found.

The experiment, which represented around 1 per cent of the country’s population, found that workers were more likely to improve efficiency by changing schedules, reducing meeting times and overhauling communications.

Participants said they also felt less stress, were more happy and could spend more time socialising and exercising.

Workers also didn’t increase the amount of overtime worked.

The study included around 100 workplaces, with the first running from 2014 to 2019 in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik.

It saw hours for childcare and service-center staff fall from 40 to 35 without pay reductions, before including other workers, researchers from the UK thinktank Autonomy and the Alda Association for Sustainable Democracy found.

The second trial included 440 civil servants whose hours were cut between 2017 and 2021. Ultimately, the two experiments spanned workforces including police, healthcare workers, retail and council workers and teachers.

Four-day week experiment an ‘overwhelming success’

The experiment’s success has so far led unions to renegotiate working patterns, with 86 per cent of the country’s workforce now moving to shorter hours for the same pay, or with the legal right to do so.

"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,” director of research at Autonomy Will Stronge said.

"It shows that the public sector is ripe for being a pioneer of shorter working weeks - and lessons can be learned for other governments.

It comes as Japan also pushes for a four-day standard working week.

The Asian country included the recommendation in its annual economic policy guidelines, in a move to encourage younger workers to spend more time socialising and creating families.

Japan’s work culture has been considered one of the most intense in the world, with the country having its own word for working to the point of death: ‘karoshi’.

New Zealand, Finland and Spain have all experimented with four-day weeks in recent years.

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Image: Yahoo Finance
Image: Yahoo Finance