Iceland and their ‘Four-Day Working Week’ – What Can the UK Learn?

For what seems like a lifetime, the tantalising prospect of a four-day working week has been no more than a pleasant thought. But now, COVID-19 has paved the way for conversations around flexible working, and the idea made business owners consider the benefits of such a policy.

Countries like Sweden, Japan, Spain, and the US are all piloting shorter work weeks, but it’s Iceland who’s leading the field. Trials, in which workers were paid the same amount for shorter hours, took place between 2015 and 2019 and it was found that productivity remained the same or improved in the majority of workplaces, researchers said.

Many workplaces moved from 40 hours a week to a 35/36 hour week and the trials have led unions to renegotiate working patterns. Now, 86% of Iceland’s workforce have either moved to shorter hours for the same pay, or will gain the right to. Researchers from ‘Autonomy’ (a UK based think tank) and the ‘Association for Sustainable Democracy’ noted there was a remarkable rise in not only productivity with the same amount of work (if not more) was being achieved despite the reduced hours. Workers further reported feeling less stressed and at risk of burnout, and said their health and work-life balance had improved. The new work hours are even positively affecting social issues, with the Government Equalities Office finding that men were much more likely to pick up domestic chores with their time off, including helping out with children.

According to a recent polly. 64% of people across the UK support the idea of a four-day working week. Perhaps the tide will change and businesses will embrace the idea sooner than we anticipate!

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