In the statistics of working hours of the Organization of Industrialized Countries Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development diving Island Often on top: weekly working hours are among the highest in the world, and the average working life of 47 years is among the longest in total Europe. But in surveys, many citizens have repeatedly complained about the negative side of this phenomenon: lack of time for leisure and family, a large number of exhausted patients.
Against this background, two field tests began a few years ago in the island nation to investigate the impact of reductions in working hours. The first started in 2015 and peaked at 2,500 employees, while the second trial started in 2017 with more than 400 people. This is a significant number for Iceland, with a total working population of around 200,000.
Are the results really reliable?
The first results of the trials are now available. The results seem too good to be true: many participants cut their weekly working hours from 40 to 36 or 35 hours, at the same salary. Highlight: “Realized productivity and performance remained the same or even improved in most pilot workplaces,” according to an evaluation. (You can find the study report here). In order to prevent losses in productivity, the reduction in working hours was surrounded by a revision of working procedures: meetings were held in less time or completely replaced by emails, and tasks that could be deleted without specifically replacing them were searched.
According to the researchers, participants reported being less stressed and less likely to feel at risk of burnout. Significantly improved work-life balance. The study showed that shortening the work week was a “remarkable success”, according to the newspaper BBC Will Strong, Head of Research at the Autonomy Research Center. The organization conducted field tests jointly with the NGO Alda (Association for Sustainable Democracy) and Icelandic trade unions.
It’s unclear exactly how reliable Iceland’s findings are. There was no economist among the study authors. It is also questionable whether the results can be transferred to other countries with a more complex economic structure than Iceland.
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