There’s nothing better than going Monday through Friday before a co-worker tells you it’s a three-day weekend. But what if it was like that every Friday?
For those who don’t decide their own working hours, a test of a 35-hour workweek without a corresponding drop in compensation among 2,500 workers in Iceland has shown that the old punch-clock feeding schedule may not really be the way to go. more productive work. .
The report, conducted by the think tank Autonomy, and another called the Association for Sustainability and Democracy, found that negative markers such as burnout, stress, needed overtime, and disconnection with friends and family decreased, unsurprisingly, but that productivity was maintained. at worst, unchanged and often improved for those who work shorter hours.
The trials were so successful that after their conclusion in 2019, massive renegotiation by unions means 86% of Icelanders now work non-traditional workweeks, which could include 5-6 hour workdays or four-hour workweeks. days.
“This study shows that the world’s largest test of a shorter workweek in the public sector was, by all accounts, an overwhelming success,” said Will Stronge, Director of Autonomy. “It shows that the public sector is ready to pioneer shorter workweeks, and lessons can be learned for other governments.”
Icelanders, unlike their Scandinavian neighbors, tend to work more even though the 21st century has been classified in that part of the world with an increase in productivity coupled with a decrease in working hours.
The main theory is that “burnout” depletes workers’ ability to be productive. Lack of production will occasionally require overtime, especially from managers, further increasing burnout and decreasing productivity. In those who cannot afford to be less productive, such as nurses, for example, burnout simply results in negative health outcomes.
Hoping to see if they could replicate productivity gains in other countries, the Reykjavik City Council launched this test, mainly in public offices, but also in private companies, to measure the performance and well-being of workers over four years.
The mother of invention
Compared to unregistered companies or offices, productivity remained the same or rose among participants, but it was not free. Instead, since necessity is the mother of invention, a kind of massive reinvention of operations was needed to achieve production or service goals with reduced hours.
This involved, as the report details, the reduction or termination of meetings, the reorganization of shifts, and often a total re-evaluation of work processes to find where redundancies or inefficiencies could be eliminated.
One participant reported: “We shorten meetings at our workplace and we keep trying to shorten them constantly, we constantly think about how we get things done here.”
An office manager said, “For example, we change our shift plans. This changed the way of thinking in the workplace somewhat automatically, you know, you start to rethink and become more flexible. Instead of doing things with the same usual routine as before, people re-evaluated how to do things and all of a sudden people are doing things very differently. “
Seasoned workers will know that these kinds of changes can sometimes destroy an operation, but the payoff of working fewer hours without loss of pay was, overall, a unifying force of collective desire more than enough to ensure that companies made the most of the opportunity. reduction. hours.
Most importantly, however, some of the profound results were found in the health and life measures. Along with increased personal time and opportunities for exercise, participating working fathers noted that they are able to spend more time with their children, that men can contribute with household tasks, and that both fathers are able to run more errands and be less stressed doing them.
Since the dawn of time, humans have been discovering how to do more with less. The nine-hour, five-day workweek pioneered an era with limited assistive technology compared to what is available now. Cloud storage, file sharing, instant communication, Internet–All of them have reduced the amount of time it takes to complete tasks in the workplace.
However, humanity has not passed the days when writing meant using a typewriter, and one had to be sitting by the phone to answer. We are long behind a 35-hour workweek, as technology more than makes up for those five hours lost. In another 20 years, when machine learning and biotech interfaces become more common, we can probably do the same in a 30-hour workweek.
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