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World’s largest four-day week trials an ‘overwhelming success’

Trials of a four-day week in Iceland saw increased productivity and well-being of workers, and hints at the future potential of reduced hours.

A four-day week sounds pretty appealing.

I’m sure one day less of Zoom calls, busy commutes, and annoying co-workers is something of a fantasy for most.

Now, thanks to new trials undertaken by think-tanks, we’ve new evidence to suggest that shorter working weeks may actually be more beneficial for workers and employers than the traditional five-day system.

Between 2015 and 2019, the Reykjavík City Council and Icelandic national government ran trials that included over 2,500 workers – more than 1% of the working population.

These workers, who hailed from preschools, hospitals, offices and more, saw their average hours reduced from a 5-day 40-hour week to 35-36 hours over 4 days, all whilst maintaining the same pay.

As you may expect, this reduced week saw workers less stressed and burnt out, with an overall feeling that their work-life balance had improved. They also reported being able to spend more time doing hobbies and spending time with family.

Such a big improvement in the well-being of employees is even more significant in a time where remote working and the pandemic have taken a toll on the mental health of workers; 82% of professionals working remotely worldwide reported feeling burnt out, and 52% of these believed it was due longer hours as a result of working from home.

What’s even more promising for companies who are already experimenting with a four-day week, such as Kickstarter and Buffer, is that productivity remained the same or even improved in the majority of workplaces during the trials.

Think-tanks reported that both workers and managers adapted their working patterns and changed how they approached tasks to become more efficient and, as a result, were able to deliver the same levels of productivity as before.

One participant described how his co-workers shortened meetings, even avoiding them altogether by sending emails, and another said that his colleagues removed longer coffee breaks to stay focused, motivated by their shorter workweek.

Cutting out arduous meetings, three-day weekends, and more time to yourself? It isn’t surprising that the four-day week has been catching on across the globe, with Microsoft Japan seeing a 40% increase in productivity during their 2019 trials, and Spain set to launch country-wide trials over the next three years.

And if you’re still not convinced, there is even evidence to suggest a four-day working week could help the environment.

A report released in May by Platform London suggests that a four-day week, without a loss in wages, could shrink the UK’s carbon footprint by 127 million tonnes per year by 2025, or a reduction of 21.3%.

For scale, that is more than the entire carbon footprint of Switzerland and the equivalent of taking 27 million cars off the roads.

Four-day weeks promise better mental health, higher productivity, and a greener future for everyone, and the results already delivered are nothing short of revolutionary.


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