Management: Shortened Work Week "Economic Terrorism" - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Management: Shortened Work Week “Economic Terrorism”

Published May 19, 2016

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A representative of management has expressed grave misgivings about a shortened work week, despite positive results from a city experiment with the idea.

Kvennablaðið reports that Hannes G. Sigurðsson, the assistant managing director of Business Iceland, gave a candid interview with Viðskiptablaðið on the subject of a shortened work week.

Therein, he likened shortening the full time work week from 40 hours to 35 – as a bill in parliament proposes – to “economic terrorism”. He added that Iceland’s definition of a full time work week is based on “a gravely serious misunderstanding”.

Hannes contends that break times at the workplace should not be counted as a part of work. If the legally required breaks are factored in, the full time work week goes from 40 hours to 37 hours and 5 minutes. Shortening the work week, he says, would lead to “economic chaos”.

However, Hannes’s contentions do not hold up to scrutiny.

A new study from the City of Reykjavík shows that Icelanders in full time employment work 39.7 hours per week. Furthermore, a year-long experiment that shortened the work week from 40 hours to 35 at select city workplaces showed greater productivity, fewer sick days called in, and greater general worker satisfaction.

Research conducts elsewhere 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.


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