Two trials of reducing working hours in Iceland have been hailed as a success with maintaining productivity and improving well-being, leading to the majority of workers being entitled to a shorter work week.
Between 2015 and 2019, tests reduced work hours mainly from 40 to 35 or 36, and one study noted reduced levels of stress and burnout, and increased or constant productivity levels.
The trials involved some 2,500 people, 1% of Iceland’s workforce, and were led by city or government authorities and one of the major trade union confederations, BSRB.
A report published by the Association for Sustainable Democracy (Alda) in Iceland and the UK think tank Autonomy found the test to be “an overwhelming success”, with workers enjoying a boost to well-being, a better work-life balance and “a better cooperative spirit in the workplace.”
They were not paid less for working fewer hours.
At the time of the report’s release, the groups said 86% of Iceland’s workforce now have contracts that have moved them to shorter working hours or entitle them to do so in the future.
Gudmundur D. Haraldsson, a researcher at Alda, said: “The shorter workweek journey in Iceland tells us that not only is it possible to work less in modern times, but progressive change is also possible.
“Our roadmap to a shorter workweek in the public sector should be of interest to anyone who wants to see working hours reduced.”
Will Stronge, Research Director at Autonomy, said the trials have taken Iceland “a big step towards a four-day work week” and provided other governments with an example of how to put the idea to the test.
Spain tests four-day workweek
The four-day workweek has become a hot topic of debate in recent years.
Spain plans to test it later this year with a three-year pilot project, using € 50 million from the EU’s coronavirus recovery fund to compensate the 200 medium-sized companies participating.
The funds will be used to subsidize all the businessmen’s cost overruns in the first year of the trial and then reduce government aid to 50% and 25% each consecutive year, according to a plan by the progressive More Country party that is behind the initiative. . .
Íñigo Errejón Más País wrote on Twitter when the proposal was accepted by the Spanish government: “With the 4-day (32-hour) working day we have opened a true debate on the times. This is always controversial, because it opens up new paths. What else is more important to politics than living in time? “
Software Delsol, in southern Spain, invested 400,000 euros last year to reduce the working hours of its 190 employees and has since reported a 28% reduction in absenteeism, with people choosing to go to the bank or see your doctor on your day off.
Its sales increased by 20% last year and no employee has resigned since the new schedule was adopted.
Critics say an economy rocked by a pandemic is not the best setting for experiments.
Carlos Victoria, from ESADE Business School, also cautioned against the proposal’s unique approach. “There are probably industries or economic areas in which a reduction in working hours will not necessarily generate productivity gains,” said the economic policy researcher.
But Más País argues that it is better to try first and then decide how to expand it or whether to do it at all.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism