+
Four lessons the U.S. can take from Iceland's hugely successful 4-day workweek trial
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The country of Iceland has released the analysis of its 4-day work week experiment and the results speak for themselves.

The trials run by Reykjavík City Council and the national government took place from 2015 to 2019 and included about 1% of Iceland's working population, making it the world's largest shortened workweek trial to date. The findings show that paying people the same amount to work fewer hours per week results in a happier, healthier workforce with similar or increased productivity. Who knew?

Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy, a UK think tank that co-conducted a study of the trials, said in a statement: "This study shows that the world's largest-ever trial of a shorter working week in the public sector was by all measures an overwhelming success. It shows that the public sector is ripe for being a pioneer of shorter working weeks—and lessons can be learned for other governments."

So what are those lessons we can learn?

1) There's nothing magical about a 40-hour workweek.

Most of the workers in the trial reduced their hours from 40 hours per week to 35 or 36, without any decrease in productivity. In fact, the study found "Productivity and service provision remained the same or improved across the majority of trial workplaces."

Forty hours is an arbitrary number that was initially instituted in the U.S. as a response to the inhumane factory hours workers were forced into at the dawn of the industrial age. And this isn't the first study to show that working fewer than 40 hours isn't some magical, ideal number of working hours. A New Zealand company that cut its hours to 32 hours a week had similar results as this Iceland trial—happier employees and no loss in productivity.

2) Paying people more for their time may actually make them more productive.


It's not just that people worked fewer hours in this trial—they worked fewer hours but still made the same amount of money, effectively upping their per-hour wage. Iceland already boasts one of the highest average income levels in the world, so a higher hourly wage may not have had a huge impact there, but since productivity didn't decrease despite the fewer hours, it's possible that people work more efficiently when the value of their time is reflected in their pay.

Considering the debates over a living minimum wage in the U.S., seeing the correlation between pay and productivity is interesting, to say the least.

3) Happier, less stressed humans make better, more efficient workers.

This should really be a no-brainer, but it's good to see additional data to back it up. Happy workers are better workers.

U.S. work culture tends to reward "the grind," and celebrates people who "go the extra mile" at work, but studies like this one keep showing that overworking is not the way to increase productivity. As the Autonomy study points out:

"Worn down by long hours spent at work, the Icelandic workforce is often fatigued, which takes a toll on its productivity. In a vicious circle, this lower productivity ends up necessitating longer working days to 'make up' the lost output, lowering 'per-hour productivity' even further."

And conversely, the study states:

"Countries with greater productivity per hour usually have fewer hours of work. Furthermore, not only does greater productivity usually correlate with shorter work hours, but as productivity increases, working hours tend to go down over time."

4) A healthier work-life balance actually makes people like their jobs more.

Are people unhappy at work because they don't really like their work, or because they are simply working too many hours? According to the Iceland trial, working less made people enjoy their work more (which probably also contributes to greater productivity).

"[Workers] kind of had a greater energy on the job and actually enjoyed their work a bit more, which sounds very rosy," Stronge told CBC Radio's "As It Happens." "But that is what comes out of a lot of these trials, is that people feel actually more attached to the job. In a way, they feel rewarded by having more time."

Naturally, there are a few caveats here. These trials were conducted on public sector jobs, so they may not be perfectly applicable in all industries. However, the public sector makes up approximately 15% of the workforce in the U.S., which is nothing to sneeze at. Direct country-to-country comparisons are also tough, considering variations in economies, demographics, lifestyles, cultures, etc., but some lessons are simply universal. A healthy work-life balance is a human need, not an Icelandic one, and we can all benefit from creating a culture where family time, rest time, personal creative time, and leisure time are considered just as valuable as our work time.

Thanks, Iceland, for the push to move in that direction.

True

Innovation is awesome, right? I mean, it gave us the internet!

However, there is always a price to pay for modernization, and in this case, it’s in the form of digital eye strain, a group of vision problems that can pop up after as little as two hours of looking at a screen. Some of the symptoms are tired and/or dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain1. Ouch!

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Someone asked strangers online to share life's essential lessons. Here are the 17 best.

There's a bit of advice here for everyone—from financial wisdom to mental health tips.

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

Failure is a great teacher.

It’s true that life never gets easier, and we only get continuously better at our lives. Childhood’s lessons are simple—this is how you color in the lines, 2 + 2 = 4, brush your teeth twice a day, etc. As we get older, lessons keep coming, and though they might still remain simple in their message, truly understanding them can be difficult. Often we learn the hard way.

The good news is, the “hard way” is indeed a great teacher. Learning the hard way often involves struggle, mistakes and failure. While these feelings are undeniably uncomfortable, being patient and persistent enough to move through them often leaves us not only wiser in having gained the lesson, but more confident, assured and emotionally resilient. If that’s not growth, I don’t know what is.

Keep ReadingShow less
via Co-Op and Pixabay

Co-op CEO Shirine Khoury-Haq.

The CEO of Co-op, one of the UK’s largest supermarket chains has made an important statement about excess at a time when many families are struggling in the UK.

The Daily Mail reports that Shirine Khoury-Haq, the head of a company with over 3900 retail locations says she’s giving her twin, six-year-old daughters one present each this Christmas because she could not “in good conscience” give them more while millions of families struggle with inflation and high energy prices.

Khoury-Haq makes over £1 million ($1,190,000) a year after bonuses, so she pledged to give her family's present money to those in need. “It just feels like excess, given what’s happening in the world. In good conscience, I can’t do that in my own home,” Khoury-Haq said according to The Guardian.

“The rest of our budget will be given to Santa to provide presents for children whose parents can’t contribute to the elves,” she continued. “We’re going to go out shopping for those other presents and [we will] send them to Santa.”

Keep ReadingShow less

Chris Hemsworth and daughter.

This article originally appeared on 08.27.18


In addition to being the star of Marvel franchise "Thor," actor Chris Hemsworth is also a father-of-three? And it turns out, he's pretty much the coolest dad ever.

In a clip from a 2015 interview on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," Hemsworth shared an interesting conversation he had with his 4-year-old daughter India.

Keep ReadingShow less
Democracy

Cuban immigrant’s reaction to getting his first American paycheck has gone viral

Before coming to the U.S. last year, Diaz made $12 a month as a computer science teacher in Cuba.

The Cuban and American flags.

An Instagram post featuring Yoel Diaz, a recent Cuban immigrant, is going viral because it shows a powerful example of something many of us in America take for granted. The freedom to earn a paycheck for a day of honest labor.

In the video, Diaz is ecstatic after he opens his first paycheck after getting a job as a seasonal worker for UPS. CBS reports that before coming to the U.S. last year, Diaz made $12 a month as a computer science teacher in Cuba.

"This is my first hourly paycheck that I feel every hour counted," he told CBS News. "That every hour of work has importance in my life and that I know I can work hard for something. I can't compare that emotion with anything. Because I never had that in my country."

The new job was a big change from life in Cuba where he had trouble filling his refrigerator. He told CBS News that sometimes he only had two items: "Water, water, water, five, ten eggs, water."

Keep ReadingShow less