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Large-scale trials of reduced working hours in Iceland have been an 'overwhelming success' and have led to many people reducing their working time permanently, according to researchers.
Two trials, across a broad range of occupations, commenced in Iceland in 2015 and 2017 and eventually involved around 3,000 employees. Their success has led to unions negotiating shorter working hours, or a right to request shorter working hours, for 86% of the Nordic country’s population.
The first trial took place at Reykjavik City Council between 2014 and 2019, in consultation with the Federation of State and Municipal Employees (BSRB). It began at two workplaces involving just a few dozen workers, but expanded to include 2,500 staff. A second trial involved 440 Icelandic government workers.
A service centre in Reykjavik and the city’s Child Protection Service both experienced high levels of stress, which shorter working hours aimed to reduce. An additional workplace was also selected as a control group for comparison.
Workers reduced their working time from 40 hours per week to 35 or 36 hours. Early positive results led researchers to encompass not only offices, but also playschools, city maintenance facilities, care homes and many other workplaces.
Productivity and service provision remained the same or improved across the majority of trial workplaces, while worker wellbeing increased across a range of indicators, from perceived stress and burnout, to health and work-life balance.
Guðmundur D Haraldsson, a researcher at Icelandic