The Shorter Work Week Really Worked in Iceland. Here’s How

Even because the Covid-19 pandemic pressured firms around the globe to reimagine the office, researchers in Iceland had been already conducting two trials of a shorter work week that concerned about 2,500 employees—greater than 1% of the nation’s working inhabitants. They discovered that the experiment was an “overwhelming success” —employees had been in a position to work much less, receives a commission the identical, whereas sustaining productiveness and bettering private well-being.

The Iceland analysis has been one of many few giant, formal research on the topic. So how did members pull it off and what classes have they got for the remainder of the world? Bloomberg News interviewed 4 Icelanders, who described a few of the preliminary issues that accompanied modified schedules, but they had been helped by their organizations which took concerted steps like introducing formal coaching packages on time-management to show them methods to cut back their hours whereas sustaining productiveness.
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The trials additionally labored as a result of each staff and employers had been versatile, keen to experiment and make adjustments when one thing didn’t work. In some instances, employers had so as to add just a few hours again after chopping them an excessive amount of. Iceland did the trials partly as a result of folks had been reporting comparatively lengthy working hours, averaging 44.4 hours per week—the third highest of Eurostat countries in 2018.

Contributors within the Iceland examine lowered their hours by three to 5 hours per week with out dropping pay. Whereas the shorter work hours have to date largely been adopted in Iceland’s public sector, employees and managers used easy methods to take care of productiveness whereas chopping again on time within the workplace. As staff from Silicon Valley to Wall Road search for higher methods to stability work and life, listed here are ideas from 4 Icelanders.

Learn extra: Spain Is Going to Trial a 4-Day Work Week. Could the Idea Go Mainstream Post-Pandemic?

As director of capital Reykjavik’s Land and Operation company, Hjalti Guðmundsson manages a staff of about 140 folks. Most of them work open air, on duties like highway upkeep, cleansing streets and gardening. Earlier than beginning the trial in 2016, staff labored lengthy hours, normally from 7 a.m. till 5:30 p.m. or later, although work from 3:30 p.m. onwards was counted as extra time.

Because the group has totally different work websites, he was in a position to experiment with two totally different fashions concurrently. At some websites, 4 of the 5 work days had been shortened by an hour, permitting employees to complete at 4 p.m. At others, employees labored common hours Monday to Thursday, and a half day on Friday. Salaries had been unchanged, with written agreements between employers and staff. And on the finish of the trial, employees voted for his or her most popular mannequin as a everlasting association. The outcome was clear – greater than 90% of employees wished to shorten their work day by one hour 4 days per week.

“It didn’t shock me that they wished to do this, as a result of for those who work from 7:30 a.m. to five p.m., the final hour between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. will not be very productive,” explains Guðmundsson. “Contrarily, I feel we’ve gained productiveness, not solely by this hour. However individuals are extra keen to do their jobs within the energetic work time.”

Those that labored in an workplace had shorter conferences. Those that labored on web site spent much less time going to physician’s appointments and bodily remedy, as fewer sick days had been reported. Staff reported having extra time to spend with their households and on hobbies. Many appreciated gaining an additional hour of daylight, particularly in the course of the winter.

Guðmundsson himself has been in a position to partially benefit from the shortened work week, and says he goals to decide to the brand new mannequin by the tip of the 12 months. As a supervisor, he needs to steer by instance. “Many of the tasks can wait till tomorrow morning,” mentioned Guðmundsson. “It’s a mindset, I feel. You simply must work your means by means of this, you realize?”

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Arna Hrönn Aradóttir, a public-health mission supervisor in Reykjavik’s suburbs, was one of many first to trial shorter hours as her office was chosen for the experiment in 2015. As a mom of 5 kids, Aradóttir struggled to stability an 8-hour work day with childcare and housekeeping. Initially of the trial, she opted to shorten her work day by an hour daily. Her office enrolled her in a time-management course, the place she realized to shorten conferences, cut back time spent touring for conferences and schedule her work extra effectively.

“I really feel like I’m extra targeted now,” mentioned Aradóttir. “Earlier than the pandemic, I spent loads of time going to a gathering by automotive, however now I can sit in my workplace and have conferences by means of my pc. So I’ve gained 4 hours in my work day.”

She used to have a 40-hour work week, however now works simply 36 hours for a similar pay taking over common 8-hour days on Monday to Thursday, and 4 hours on Fridays. This in flip has enabled her to review for a grasp’s diploma, enhancing her place on the job market. When there’s no faculty, she says she goes biking or mountaineering, and has extra time for herself.

“The advantages for us is that we had extra high quality of life,” mentioned Aradóttir. “It has helped me to spend extra time with my kids and expertise much less stress.”

Sólveig Reynisdóttir, Aradóttir’s boss, mentioned Reykjavíok Service Centre’s participation was in response to an annual worker survey that exposed that its employees skilled loads of pressure of their jobs. The middle experimented with the variety of hours they would scale back within the work week, and at one level had so as to add again some hours after chopping an excessive amount of.

“We now have shortened it 5 hours, then three hours and now 4 hours per week,” mentioned Reynisdóttir. Some components of the transition didn’t go as easily as anticipated. Staff had been reluctant to go from a 35-hour to 37-hour work week, regardless that it was nonetheless fewer hours than earlier than the trial.

However general, Reynisdóttir views the trial as extra optimistic than unfavourable. Productiveness was maintained whereas staff reported higher job satisfaction and fewer sick days that concerned quick sicknesses like colds.

Like Aradóttir, Reynisdóttir mentioned she was in a position to preserve productiveness by shortening conferences and changing in-person ones with on-line classes, saving on journey time.“Covid has pushed us in that course,” explains Reynisdóttir. “The ready lists will not be longer. The variety of interviews is on par with what was earlier than.”

Learn extra: Stressed at Work? Here’s How to Feel Better

The truth is, the shortened work week has motivated staff to work tougher, she notes. However as a supervisor, Reynisdóttir has had extra issue following the shortened work week herself. “Generally there’s loads of tasks after which we all know the workload and pressure turns into extra however that evens out if you look again an entire 12 months,” she mentioned.

“It has made my job simpler to have a shorter work week,” mentioned Reynisdóttir. “The workers are extra happy which is of nice significance for me as a supervisor.”

Saga Stephensen simply began the shorter work week this January. Collectively, she and her colleagues voted to have a full day without work each different Friday and work common hours the remainder of the time.

Like Aradóttir, her office enrolled her in time-management programs that enabled her to shorten and cut back conferences, substitute in-person appointments with on-line ones, thereby chopping journey time as effectively. Her office additionally determined to haven’t any conferences on the Fridays they do work, permitting them to wrap up duties on the finish of the week.

“That has actually helped as a result of we now have loads of conferences and also you rethink them,” mentioned Stephensen. “You consider if you really want that assembly and whether it is mandatory.”

It took a while for her and her colleagues to regulate to the brand new schedule. On weeks that she has Friday off, she typically finally ends up working longer hours different days, she famous. However general everyone seems to be happy with the brand new association.

“I feel as a result of folks assume that it is a very optimistic factor, everyone seems to be making an attempt onerous to maintain this up,” mentioned Stephensen. “We’re additionally urged by our bosses to benefit from our day and take the break day.”

On her Friday off, she now spends time doing family chores, assembly up with household and pals, and every so often does a brief journey throughout her prolonged weekend. Stephensen additionally finds it simpler to return to work after latest holidays, she mentioned. “I didn’t really feel unhappy for the vacation to be over as a result of I knew there have been some breaks to stay up for.” | The Shorter Work Week Actually Labored in Iceland. Right here’s How

Aila Slisco

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