07 Jul 2021 00:09 IST

Iceland runs the world’s largest trial of a shorter work week

The four-year experiment with no pay reduction was able to produce happier, more productive workers

Iceland’s trial results of shorter work weeks, conducted from 2015 to 2019, was published this week. The test involved 2,500 people from Reykjavík City Council and 440 people from Iceland's national government, forming more than one percent of the country's workforce. Employees from a wide variety of workplaces such as offices, preschools, social service providers, and hospitals moved from 40-hour work weeks to 35- or 36-hour weeks with no reduction in pay. The sample size included workers on non-traditional shift times as well.

The outcome of the experiment was overwhelmingly positive as it improved productivity, burnout went down, work-life balance went up, and employees’ health got better. The successful attempt has made Iceland's trade unions negotiate for permanently reduced working hours. The report also states that around 86 per cent of the country's workforce now either has shorter working hours, or the right to shorten their hours.

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