Shorter work week goes a long way as study shows ‘overwhelming ...

World

Shorter work week goes a long way as study shows ‘overwhelming success’

Participants in the Iceland study reduced their hours without losing pay or productivity

Virginia Lau and Ragnhildur Sigurdardottir

Even as the Covid-19 pandemic forced companies about the world to reimagine the workplace, researchers in Iceland were already conducting two trials of a shorter work week that involved about 2,500 workers — more than 1% of the country’s working population. They found that the experiment was an “overwhelming success” — workers were able to work less, get paid the same, while maintaining productivity and improving personal wellbeing.

The Iceland research has been one of the few large, formal studies on the subject. So how did participants pull it off and what lessons do they have for the rest of the world? Bloomberg News interviewed four Icelanders, who described some of the initial problems that accompanied changed schedules, yet they were helped by their organisations which took concerted steps like introducing formal training programmes on time management to teach them how to reduce their hours while maintaining productivity.

The trials also worked because both employees and employers were flexible, willing to experiment and make changes when something didn’t work. In some cases, employers had to add a few hours back after cutting them too much. Iceland did the trials partly because people were reporting relatively long working hours, averaging 44.4 hours per week — the third highest of Eurostat countries in 2018...

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