Could a shorter workweek be the future of industries across the world? A new study published in June of 2021 has proven to be an enormous success in demonstrating the benefits of a shortened four-day workweek. Following the results of the Icelandic study, many companies have started implementing the new workweek schedule within their own companies.
Success Leads the Way
Alda, Association for Democracy and Sustainability, teamed with the Icelandic independent think tank Autonomy to study the effects of a four-day workweek on workers and productivity. The goal of the study was to examine whether a shorter workweek could improve work-life balance for workers and increase productivity. A series of studies were conducted over several years beginning in 2015. Workers in the study were placed on a 35- or 36-hour weekly schedule without any cuts in pay. The model was studied across multiple industries from the traditional 9-5 to those with varied shift patterns such as hospital workers. Participating working environments were tasked with figuring out ways to streamline operations, shorten or reduce the frequency of meetings, and create a more efficient workplace for everyone.
The results of the study showed that reduced working hours lead to higher productivity during the hours worked and a decrease in worker burnout and fatigue. With the extra time, workers were able to spend time with family, keep up with chores, and become more physically active. This created healthier happier workers and the effects trickled down to benefit the workplace. Under the new schedule, productivity and level of service within the workplace either remained constant or improved.
Changing the Workweek
This study was only one out of a growing body of studies—all saying the same thing. The old worries that decreasing work hours would lead to lower productivity or overwork during the working hours were hereby put to rest. By the time this study was published, 86% of the Icelandic workforce had already adopted or been given the ability to opt for a shorter workweek. The benefits of working less are clear and people everywhere are beginning to see the light.
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