Iceland – shorter working week does not damage productivity

Forbes is reporting on a recent study (June 2021) of 2,500 workers in Iceland—more than 1% of the workforce—was conducted to see if shortened workdays lead to more productivity and a happier workforce. Autonomy’s summary of the results are that….

  • 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 wellbeing 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 organised in other countries around the world.

There’s a BBC report of the study here.

Freelancers should keep an eye on this (generally welcome) message. One of our issues, when challenging long-hours working, has always been the counter-offer of employers to cut the working day, but also cut pay accordingly on the grounds that they are paying for the hour.

Our position should always be that employers pay for productivity – that’s how they set their wages. If they want to abolish the free market and find some other way of calculating value, then their argument could make sense – but in the meantime, a cut in working hours should not result in a wage-cut.

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