Iceland's four-day-week trial deemed an ‘overwhelming success’—could the UK be next?

A study researching the efficacy of a four-day work week has labeled as a success

four day work week
(Image credit: Richard Drury / Getty Images)

A new study conducted by Iceland’s Association for Sustainable Democracy (Alda) and UK-based thinktank Autonomy, has suggested that a successful trial for a four-day working week might be the pioneer for a worldwide reduction in working hours. The study found that productivity remained largely the same—and in some cases higher—when the working week is one day less. 

Lockdown has left many of us thinking more about our work/life balance, with longer hours working and feeling constantly on call linked to insomnia, anxiety, and burnout. Could a shorter working week ease the pressure? 

The study, involving 2,500 participants—which is around 1% of the workforce in Iceland—has suggested that workers are able to work to a better standard when working fewer hours weekly. The study took place across various different working sectors such as preschools, offices, social service providers, and hospitals.

Will Stronge, the director of research at Autonomy said, “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.”


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The report also noted that 86% of Iceland’s working population are already working fewer hours or “gaining the right to shorten their hours,” following the success of this trial. 

Will Stonge continued to say that the study’s success indicates that a four-day working week could work in other countries, acting as a "blueprint" for future trials. “It shows that the public sector is ripe for being a pioneer of shorter working weeks and lessons can be learned for other governments,” he said. Alda researcher Gudmundur D. Haraldsson, added, “The Icelandic shorter working week journey tells us that not only is it possible to work less in modern times but that progressive change is possible too." 

A US company named Buffer also reported positive results after they moved their whole company into a four-day working week schedule. 

The Atlantic reported about the company's findings, “people who work a four-day week generally report that they’re healthier, happier, and less crunched for time; their employers report that they’re more efficient and more focused.”

four day work week

(Image credit: Willie B. Thomas / Getty Images)

This topic has been widely discussed in the UK for years. In 2018, Frances O’Grady spoke on behalf of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) at a Congress meeting in Manchester and committed the TUC to push for a four-day working week in the UK. She stated, “I believe that in this century, we can win a four-day working week, with decent pay for everyone. Let’s take back control of working time. Ban zero hours. Win two-way flexibility. And end exploitation, once and for all.”

A petition is currently being circulated in the UK that needs 50,000 signatures before being discussed in parliament. A group called the 4 Day Week Campaign has been pushing for shorter working weeks in the UK for many years and has begun promoting people to sign this petition to encourage parliamentary change. 

The group said on Twitter, “70% of the UK public want a #4dayweek with no loss of pay - the time has come.”

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Workers in the UK are all for this concept and many are hopeful that the UK will implement a four-day workweek in the future. One social media user said, "I love the idea of a four-day work week. Work shouldn't consume our lives. 

"We need more time to relax and enjoy being alive instead of spending a two-day weekend recovering from the work week/preparing ourselves to return."