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Long Weekends Forever…?


Okay, maybe not quite — but shorter workweeks could be on the horizon.

You may have recently seen news stories on Iceland’s 4 year study into whether shortened workweeks lead to more productivity and a happier workforce.

(I could’ve saved them a lot of time and money here — yes… yes it does!)

The study of 2,500 workers was conducted between 2015 to 2019, using test cases of a 35-to-36 hour workweek without any commensurate reduction in pay.

The key takeaways of the study:

  • The trials were an overwhelming success, and since completion, 86% of the country’s workforce are now working shorter hours or gaining the right to shorten their hours.
  • Productivity and service provision remained the same or improved across the majority of trial workplaces.
  • Worker well-being dramatically increased across a range of indicators, from perceived stress and burnout, to health and work-life balance.
  • The trials also remained revenue neutral for both the city council and the government, providing a crucial and so far largely overlooked blueprint of how future trials might be organized in other countries around the world.

With the pandemic proving that remote work can be successful, and now the push for remote/hybrid work models to be widely adopted, there is also a growing conversation on the merit of reducing the workweek.

Spain and Scotland are planning 4-day workweek trials.
45 members of parliament in the UK have called on the government to set up a commission to examine a similar trial to Iceland’s.
New Zealand company Perpetual Guardian, has continued with a 4-day workweek after conducting a trial in 2019.
Unilever’s New Zealand offices are currently conducting a year-long four-day experiment.

(Go New Zealand!!)

The key benefits of adopting a shorter workweek include -

  • Increased Productivity — less time required for attention and focus, means less potential for lethargy to kick in.
  • Improved Work-Life Balance — more time to spend with family, friends, or just yourself.
  • Better Employee Engagement — less chance of employee burnout, and a reduction in time off.

Whilst wide adoption of a shorter workweek is still a little way away, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that businesses (including government) need to continually innovate to keep their people happy. The fact that there is now a real possibility of organizations offering remote working + shorter workweeks is amazing. For employees at some companies, that was nothing more than a pipe dream 18 months ago.