Previous data – Iceland before the experiment, despite having one of the highest income levels in Europe, showed a very low productivity rate. According to the workers, in fact, the working week of over 40 hours – which often reached 44 hours overall – had direct consequences on productivity and domestic life. According to a study conducted in 2005, one in four workers said they were dissatisfied, with a poor quality of life and unable to manage the business fairly in and out of the workplace.
What did the experiment envision – Reykjavík city council and national government involved around 2,500 workers, as well as a number of workplaces such as kindergartens, offices and hospitals. The working week was reduced to 35/36 hours, without a change in wages and without aggravating the employers. The results, published by the British think tank Autonomy and the Icelandic Association for Sustainable Democracy, showed a decrease in stress levels and an improved work-life balance. “This study shows that the world’s largest trial of a shorter workweek in the public sector was an overwhelming success in all respects,” said Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy.
The consequences around the world – Following the success, the unions pushed for the reformulation of working hours at the national level. Currently in Iceland, 86% of the workforce has switched to shorter hours, following the proposed new model. The Icelandic one could in fact become a business model that can be exported all over the world. Similar experiments are already underway in Spain and New Zealand to assess their economic and social effects. “The public sector is ready to pioneer in this area and other governments can also learn from it,” Stronge continued.