Iceland Study Proves Four-Day Work Week Is Way Better And No Duh

by Madison Vanderberg

Icelandic study proves that people want shorter work weeks

A new study out of Iceland that has been years in the making, proves what workers all over the world have known forever, and it’s that working fewer hours makes people happier. Commonly referred to as the “four day work week” the Icelandic study actually only cut the total work week by four or five hours (from 40 hour weeks to 35 or 36 hour weeks), however, they didn’t decrease anyone’s pay. Also, can you imagine what you’d do with an extra hour a day? An extra hour of sleep? Unthinkable.

Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy — who conducted the study — told CNBC that it was an “overwhelming success” and “shows that the public sector is ripe for being a pioneer of shorter working weeks — and lessons can be learned for other governments.

The trials began in 2017 and used actual workplaces, with more trial workspaces signing up over the years. The study used traditional 9-5 employees and more irregular of contract-based employees who work “odd” hours. Eventually 1.3% of Iceland’s workforce was enrolled in a “short work week” trial.

The overwhelming results after reducing the work week were a) maintained or increased productivity and service provision and b) improved workers’ wellbeing and work-life balance.

Thank you to the researchers in Iceland, but also like, I could have told you that. Working fewer hours without a reduction in pay makes people happier? Yeah, no shit.

Even though people lost five hours of work per week, researchers found that they didn’t need to make it up elsewhere and that employees just worked smarter. To deal with the loss of work time, companies shortened meetings, cut out unnecessary tasks, and arranged shifts in more productive ways.

“The reward of reduced hours provoked people to organise their work more efficiently — with changes made to how meetings were run, as well as schedules, and in some cases to opening hours,” researchers stated. “In some instances, meetings were avoided by instead sending emails or exchanging information electronically.”

The change in work-life balance was most noticeable for participants, with one telling researchers, “This [reduction in hours] shows increased respect for the individual. That we are not just machines that just work…all day. Then sleep and get back to work. [But that] we are persons with desires and private lives, families and hobbies.”

“Across both trials, many workers expressed that after starting to work fewer hours they felt better, more energised, and less stressed, resulting in them having more energy for other activities, such as exercise, friends and hobbies. This then had a positive effect on their work,” the study concludes.

The biggest takeaway is that by June 2021, actual workplaces had started to implement shorter weeks and 86% of Iceland’s workers are now either on shorter hour contracts or had “new mechanisms made available to them through which they can negotiate shorter hours in their workplace.”

If there’s any hope of this happening in the U.S. it’s up to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who shared a link to the study on her Instagram Story and asked, “How do you feel about 4 day workweeks? Do you think we could pull it off?”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Instagram

My hunch is that America is too obsessed with capitalism and “hustle” culture to truly make this work, but I would love to be proven wrong. Give us a four-day work week!