As companies around the world start to adjust their workplaces as the coronavirus pandemic rages on, researchers in Iceland have gone one step further, having begun a trial of shorter working hours a few years ago, involving some 2,500 employees — more than 1% of the country’s working population. So far, the trial has been “greatly successful” – employees have been able to maintain higher productivity and improve personal well-being while working fewer hours and the same wages.
This is one of the few large trials in this area of research. So how did the participants complete the experiment, and what lessons did the experiment teach the world? In response to these questions, Bloomberg News interviewed four Icelanders. They said the schedule change was initially problematic, but then the workplace reached out to them, such as introducing time management training to teach them how to work more efficiently while cutting hours. Another reason for the success of the experiment is that both employees and employers are open to workarounds, willing to explore and make changes when current approaches don’t work.
Part of what prompted Iceland to spearhead the trial is that Icelanders work relatively long hours, averaging 44.4 hours per week, the third-highest among EU countries in 2018 statistics.
In the study, participants reduced their work hours by three to five hours per week, but kept their pay the same. To date, many public sectors in Iceland have shortened their working hours and increased their efficiency with simple and practical methods. Whether you’re a Silicon Valley elite or a Wall Street employee, if you’re looking for a better way to balance work and life, listen to these four Icelanders for advice.
As director of the land and operations agency in the capital Reykjavik, Hilt Gaymondsson manages a team of about 140 people. Most of the team works outdoors, doing things like road maintenance, street cleaning and gardening. Before joining the shortened work-hours trial in 2016, employees typically worked from 7.30am until 5pm or later, but overtime started at 3.30pm.
With the company’s different locations, Gaymondson was able to experiment with two different work models at the same time. In some locations, working hours were cut by an hour on four days of the week. In other words, employees can go home from work at four o’clock in the afternoon. In other locations, employees will work the same hours from Monday to Thursday, but only have to work half a day on Friday. Compensation remains unchanged under both models, and is guaranteed by a written agreement between employer and employee. At the end of the trial, employees voted for their preferred work model as a permanent arrangement for the company’s future. As a result, more than 90% of employees want to cut their working hours by an hour, four days a week.
Gaymondsson explained: “Their choice doesn’t surprise me at all. If you work from 7.30am to 5pm, the last hour of work is definitely not going to be productive. Also, our Work results aren’t just about that last hour of effort. People are of course more willing to do their work during the hours when they’re more productive.”
With time adjustments, office workers have less meeting time, and outdoor workers spend They also spend less time in doctor visits and physical therapy because they get sick less often. Employees also say they have more time to spend with their families and hobbies. Especially in winter, people are all in favor of getting an extra hour of sunlight.
At present, Guymondson himself has been able to enjoy such changes to a certain extent. As a manager, he wants to lead by example. “Most projects can wait,” says Gaymondsson. “I think it’s a mindset. You just have to work toward your goals.”
Ana Herron Aradotier— — A public health program manager in suburban Reykjavik who was one of the first to take part in a trial of shorter working hours in 2015. A mother of five, Aradotier struggles to balance her eight-hour day at work, childcare and household chores. When the trial began, she opted to cut her working hours by an hour each day. Her workplace enrolled her in a time management course. As a result, she learned how to shorten meetings, reduce meeting travel time, and organize her work more efficiently.
”I’m not sad that the holiday is over because I know there will be more leisure time ahead to look forward to.”
”I’m more focused now,” Aradotier said. “Before Covid-19, I always seemed to be driving to meetings. But now it’s different. I can sit in my office and participate in video conferences. I save four hours of work a
week.” She used to work 40 hours a week, but now she only works 36 hours. She used the extra time to pursue a master’s degree to improve her competitiveness in the job market. When she’s not in class, she goes cycling or hiking for exercise. “The benefit of the shorter working hours is that our quality of life has improved. I have more time with my children, and the psychological pressure has been reduced a lot,”
Aradotier said. Selweg, owner of Aradotier Reynis De Thiel said the high workload of her employees was the main reason she decided to participate in the trial.
”We cut the work week by five hours, then to three hours, and now it’s four hours a week,” Renis De Thiel said. The trial process did not go as smoothly as expected. Employees were reluctant to work from 35 to 37 hours a week, although that was still less than the 40 hours before the trial.
But overall, Reynis De Thiel believes the trial’s results outweigh the risks. Work efficiency has been maintained, employee satisfaction with their jobs has improved, and the number of sick leave has been greatly reduced.
Like Aradotier, Renis Detier has replaced face-to-face meetings with online meetings, saving a lot of travel time and increasing productivity. “The pandemic forced us to make changes,” explained Reni De Thiel.
Shorter hours are prompting employees to work harder, but Reynis De Thiel, the boss, is feeling some pressure. “When the number of work items increases, so does the stress. But when you look back at a year’s work, it’s nothing,” Renis De Thiel said. Higher job satisfaction, which is very important to me.”
Saga Stevenson and colleagues voted last January to cut one working day (Friday) every two weeks, and the rest Time works fine.
Like Aradotier, her workplace has put her in a time management course. In addition, the unit has introduced a “no meeting Friday” strategy to ensure that employees can complete work tasks at the end of the week. “It’s really beneficial because we have a lot of meetings. Now, you need to reflect on whether it’s necessary to have a meeting,” says Stevenson. It
took her and her colleagues a while to adjust to the new schedule. She said she sometimes extended her hours on other weekdays during the week off on Friday. Everyone is happy with the new arrangement. “Everyone thought it was a good thing, so they were very supportive,” Stevenson said. “The boss also told us to take advantage of the day to rest.”
On Fridays, she spends time doing housework, meeting family and friends, Occasionally take advantage of the three-day weekend for excursions. Stevenson found that it was easier than ever to return to work after a mini-vacation “recharge”. “I’m not sad that the holidays are over, because I know there will be more leisure time ahead to look forward to