When the long weekend rolls around, there’s a kick in the step of office workers. Those that normally trudged to work suddenly seem more upbeat. They’re whistling as they come out of the station, smiling at those they pass in the hallway, opening doors for others and generally just exhibiting the behaviours of someone that’s a kind and conscientious colleague. The rest of the year though, such feelings tend to go out the window. Instead, trapped in a never-ending barrage of emails, Zoom calls and deadlines, it’s hard to maintain the same level of enthusiasm for the job the it feels like it’s eating away at our one precious resource: time.
If you’re someone that’s been advocating for long weekends to be something of a permanent fixture by way of a four-day work week, you’re not alone. Now, it seems even scientists agree as researchers are calling for the four-day work week to be tested in the UK following the “overwhelming success” of the world’s largest ever trial in Iceland.
In Iceland, the testing saw more than one per cent of the working population take part, ditching the five-days on/two-days off formula that’s become pervasive around the world. In doing so, the working week was slashed to around 35 hours and the best part was their pay didn’t decrease at all. With 2,500 people taking part in the trial, it marks the biggest and most significant study of its kind ever undertaken. Employees reported not only feeling happier, but that they were also more efficient when on the clock.
The trial ran from 2015 to 2019 and had an overwhelmingly positive result that’s hard to ignore. Aside from greater work-life balance, the four-day week was shown to neutralise stress and feelings of burnout, boost productivity and wellbeing across the board, and seemed to prove that it really is about working smarter, not harder. Already, Iceland is taking note of the results and trade unions are now looking to negotiate agreements that permanently cut hours following the scheme. It’s now estimated that 86 per cent of the country’s entire working population either work less hours or have flexibility within their contracts to reduce hours.
Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy, explained: “This study shows that the world’s largest ever trial of a shorter working week in the public sector was by all measures an overwhelming success. It shows that the public sector is ripe for being a pioneer of shorter working weeks - and lessons can be learned for other governments.”
As Gudmundur D. Haraldsson, a researcher at Alda, added: “The Icelandic shorter working week journey tells us that not only is it possible to work less in modern times, but that progressive change is possible too. Our roadmap to a shorter working week in the public sector should be of interest to anyone who wishes to see working hours reduced.”