This article appeared in the July 07, 2021 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Lessons from Iceland on working smarter, not longer

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
Employees in the logistics department of Ossur, an international company that makes prosthetics, hold an impromptu meeting on Dec. 6, 2017, in Reykjavík, Iceland. A new study shows a 35-hour workweek in Iceland delivered business and family benefits.

When is less, more? 

In Iceland, the answer is fewer hours of work equal the same pay and the same or better productivity. And a shorter workweek means a better work-life balance, less stress, and more family time. 

A four-year trial of a 35-hour workweek – across multiple kinds of businesses employing 2,500 workers – was an “overwhelming success,” according to a new study. As a result, 86% of Iceland’s workers now have contracts that include shorter workweeks or give them the right to shorten their hours. 

Iceland’s findings are especially timely as companies worldwide rethink traditional employment models, consider hybrid work plans, and reflect on the lessons of remote work. 

Managers and workers in Iceland made the shorter week successful by shortening meetings, reprioritizing tasks, and giving workers greater autonomy. Managers reported more focus, more discipline, and higher morale. Spain may soon adopt a similar three-year trial. 

But perhaps the most noteworthy change was the rebalancing of life at home. Children saw more of their parents. Single workers reported having more time for exercise, hobbies, and the occasional pedicure. The Iceland study also found: “The division of household labour did change in many cases ... with men taking on greater responsibilities.”

Who knew a shorter workweek could be the path to gender equity in the laundry room?

This article appeared in the July 07, 2021 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 07/07 edition
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