Four-day workweek 'an overwhelming success' in Iceland, study finds

Trials for a shorter workweek in Iceland proved to be a huge success. 

Research out of Iceland found that working fewer hours for the same pay led to improved well-being among workers, from burnout to health and work-life balance. 

They also found productivity remained the same or improved for the majority of workplaces. Working fewer hours resulted in people feeling more energized and less stressed, the report found.


The report called the two trials of 2,500 participating employees between 2015 and 2019 "a major success."

Employees worked about 35 hours every week, with the same pay as a 40-hour workweek.

The trials were launched after labor unions and grassroots organizations pointed to Iceland's low work-life balance compared to its Nordic neighbors.

Workers across a variety of public and private-sector jobs participated in the trials. They included people working in day cares, assisted living facilities, hospitals, museums, police stations and Reykjavik government offices.

Participants reported back on how they reduced their hours. A common approach was to shift meeting times to earlier or later. Others shortened the meetings or replaced them with email or other electronic correspondence.

The promise of a shorter workweek led people to organize their time and delegate tasks more efficiently, the report found. They spent more time exercising and seeing friends, which then had a positive effect on their work.

The trials also led unions to renegotiate working patterns, and now 86% of Iceland's workforce have either moved to shorter hours for the same pay, or will gain the right to, the researchers said.

Similar trials are now being run across the world, including in Spain and by Unilever in New Zealand.