From Iceland — Reykjavík's Shortened Work Week Experiment Yields Positive Results

Reykjavík’s Shortened Work Week Experiment Yields Positive Results

Published May 12, 2016

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Anna Domnick

A year-long experiment with shorter work weeks at select Reykjavík City workplaces has shown encouraging results.

Vísir reports that at the end of an experiment that reduced the full-time hours for employees at some municipal workplaces, productivity continued at the same level, despite the work week being five or four hours shorter. At the same time, costs remained the same as well.

On top of this, employees reported greater work satisfaction, fewer sick days, and a greater level of well-being in general.

As reported last year, the idea of a shorter work week had been gathering considerable support, prompting Reykjavík City Hall to conduct this experiment.

Research shows that longer working hours reduce both productivity and work satisfaction. This assertion is backed up by OECD data, which shows that Icelanders work seven more hours per week than the Dutch; six more hours per week than the Norwegians, Danes and Germans; and five more hours per week than the French. Furthermore, Iceland has lower productivity than Denmark, Spain, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Norway – all of which have shorter work weeks.

In October 2014, the Pirate Party submitted a bill which proposed shortening the full-time work week from 40 hours to 35. The bill was met with strong opposition from representatives of management, but Reykjavík’s latest results – and new parliamentary elections – may usher in a change of policy.

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