For parents who are strung out on work and lack of sleep, there’s good news in the work-life balance front. Another country, this time Iceland, has had successful trial results of a four-day-workweek pilot program.
The Icelandic government undertook two separate four-day workweek trials in the country, where 2,500 people across 100 different workplaces took part in the study, and found the trial a resounding success.
Those who took part in the trial worked 35 hours a week instead of 40 with no significant reduction in their salaries, and the results coming in from the two separate studies show that the four-day workweek could be the next frontier in work life balance, something of particular import to working parents, who struggle to juggle child care responsibilities and responsibilities in the workplace. Indeed, work life balance may be as simple as working less.
Results from the study, underwritten by the Reykjavik City Council, the Icelandic national government, and analyzed by the Icelandic Association of Sustainability and Democracy as well as UK-based think tank, found that productivity and quality of service was not affected by the shorter hours.
And the trials weren’t just relegated to offices across the country. Preschools, hospitals, 9-5s, and jobs with shift hours were all part of the trial, showing the new workweek standard can apply to workers in all sectors.
And as for the employees themselves, results show they worked more efficiently and were just plain-old happier. Stress and burnout levels fell, per Insider, while reported rates of happiness and positivity grew. Plus, workers in the program had more time to do stuff that made them happy like see friends or work out.
And in workplaces where there was no perceived positive effect on productivity from shortening hours and giving people more personal time, there was also no negative effect, suggesting hours can be shortened without impacting, or occasionally even positively impacting, the bottom line.
“Trials have shown that shortening working hours can have a powerful positive effect,” the analysis of the study said. “Worker wellbeing dramatically increased across a range of indicators.”
The 2,500 Icelandic workers who took part in the study represent about 1 percent of the working population of the country, and the majority of workers in the country are starting to work shorter workweeks now.
Hopefully, the four-day-workweek can continue to catch on — we’re looking for results from trials from Unilever, Spain, Kickstarter, and more — so that people can have more free time in a world where productivity has stalled out while people spend more and more hours at the workplace. Some experts have suggested it’s a non-negotiable for parents in the post-COVID world.
It’s time to rekindle the connection between time spent at work and happiness at home, and so far, it looks like shortening the workweek is a good place to start.