From Iceland — Government Workers To Experiment With Shorter Work Week

Government Workers To Experiment With Shorter Work Week

Published October 19, 2016

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Eyþór Árnason

The Federation of State and Municipal Employees (BSRB) has released an announcement asking for those workplaces that operate under its auspices to indicate if they want to take part in an experiment with a shortened work week for BSRB workers.

The labour union announced that the plan is to shorten a full time work week from 40 hours to 36. The experiment will begin on February 1 and will continue for one year.

In addition, BSRB is asking workplaces who seek to take part in the experiment to also include suggestions on how to best implement a shortened work week, and how to measure worker well-being and the quality of service provided.

The City of Reykjavík has already tried a similar experiment, with very positive results.

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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