Iceland’s Four-Day Working Week Trial An “Overwhelming Success”

A four-day workweek experiment in Iceland proved to make people happier, healthier, and more productive.

  • Researchers discovered that a shorter workweek makes employees feel happier.
  • A study with 2,500 participants revealed that a four-day workweek improves a worker’s well-being, mental health, and productivity. 
  • Following the success of the research, 86% of Iceland’s workforce has reduced their working hours. 

Working 9-to-5 for five days a week may not be the best option for maintaining a prosperous career and a healthy lifestyle. However, while the idea of a four-day workweek has been around for a minute, there are quite a few places in the world that have tried to apply it to their workflow.

Nevertheless, the UK-based thinktank Autonomy and Iceland’s Association for Sustainability and Democracy(ALDA) have been exploring the advantages and disadvantages of a four-day workweek from 2015 to 2019. As per IFL Science, they released their final report on Sunday, July 4.

The experts interacted with 2,500 people in Iceland who cut their working hours from around 40 a week to 35 or 36. While some of the participants used to work a typical 9-to-5 day, others had non-standard shift patterns. During the experiment, the researchers collected valuable data regarding the respondents’ well-being.

The team found that the participant’s well-being increased significantly after they switched to a four-day workweek.

According to the research, employees felt less stressed, experienced a much lower risk of burnout, and improved their work-life balance. What’s more, their physical health also improved during the experiment.

Interestingly, most respondents reported having more energy for activities outside their workplace, such as socializing, exercising, and practicing their hobbies. Additionally, as they worked fewer hours, they could spend more quality time with their friends and families. For instance, single parents had more time for their children, while men in heterosexual couples helped their partners more with the household chores.

One anonymous participant commented:

“We have somewhat lost sight of the fact that life is not only about work. Working culture here is, indeed, about working long hours … [but] we should rethink work and adjust.”

Another shared:

“I work less… For me, it is like a gift from the heavens. And I like it a lot.”

As for productivity, it was either maintained or improved during the research. 

While examining the productivity levels of the participants, the specialists found out that it was closely related to better morale at work. A manager cooperating with the researchers explained:

“Morale has been good here, and always has, but it got even better.”

Following the success of the experiment, 86% of Iceland’s workforce has moved to a shorter working week.

Gudmundur D. Haraldsson, a researcher at ALDA, said in a statement:

“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.”

Will Stronge, Director of Research at Autonomy, added:

“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.”

In the meantime, several similar observations regarding the effects of a shorter workweek are being run in various countries across the world, including New Zealand, Spain, and Japan.

Do you think the world should consider changing the typical five-day workweek to a four-day one? Would you be happier and more productive if you worked fewer hours? Leave a comment to let us know!

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