- A company in Iceland’s four-day work week trial initially cut hours too much, a manager told Bloomberg.
- Social workers at the company were reluctant to increase their hours back when asked, per the report.
- But the trial was overall positive and left workers more satisfied, Sólveig Reynisdóttir said.
A manager who took part in Iceland’s “four-day work week” trial said her company had to increase workers’ hours after initially cutting them by too much.
Sólveig Reynisdóttir, an employee at Reykjavik Service Centre, told Bloomberg that the social-service provider had been experimenting with reduced hours since first starting on the trial in 2015. It initially shortened the working week by five hours, to 35 hours total – but then had to add back two more hours, to 37 hours, she said.
It has since cut one hour, meaning every week is now four hours shorter that before, Reynisdóttir said. Staff receive the same pay as they did before.
Staff were initially reluctant to increase their hours back to 37, from 35, even though this was less than they’d worked pretrial, per the report.
But the trial was still a success, Reynisdóttir said. Having a shorter week had made workers’ lives easier, she said.
“The employees are more satisfied which is of great importance for me as a manager,” she said.
Bloomberg spoke to four participants in the national trials about their experiences.
In two trials, which took place separately between 2015 and 2021, civil servants, public sector workers, and carers, among others, reduced their work week by between three and five hours without taking a pay cut.
A think tank has said the trial could be a “crucial blueprint” for future four-day work week trials due to its overwhelming success.
The exact hours differed between organizations. Some cut an hour every day. Saga Stephensen, a project manager for preschools who was also included in the Bloomberg report, took a whole day off every other Friday.
When the impact of the trail was analyzed by the future of work think tank Autonomy, it found that worker wellbeing improved. Being able to spend more time with family or having more time to visit the doctor were some of the benefits workers reported.
There have been growing calls for the introduction of a four-day work week, or for reduced hours overall, in recent years.
Proponents say that enabling workers to reduce their hours without losing pay will improve conditions at all levels of the labour force. Critics describe it as a fad, and something that remains out of reach for many workers.
Iceland is not the only country to experiment with the concept. Spain and Scotland have both announced plans to fund trials. Workers in New Zealand and Japan have also experimented with a reduced work week.
In the US, Democrat Rep. Mark Takano introduced a bill to lower the threshold at which workers qualify for overtime. He said this will enable low income carers to cut their hours from 40 to 32.