Calls for UK to adopt 4-day working week after success of world’s biggest trial

The world's largest ever trial of a four-day working week has been held in Iceland with "overwhelming success" and now researchers say it should be tested in the UK.

The trial cut the working week to 35-36 hours with no reduction in overall pay.

Analysis of the test found that the 2,500 people who took part had boosted productivity and wellbeing, which is now reportedly leading to permanent changes.

The trial, which ran from 2015 to 2019, has led to Icelandic trade union federations start to negotiate reduced hours for the whole country's working population.

Researchers estimate that 86% of Iceland's working population will have reduced hours due to the agreements being struck by the trade union negotiations.

Offices, play-schools, hospitals and social services are just some of the workplaces that took part in the test – with each workplace including a mix of nine-to-five employees.

Stress and burnout, as well as health and work-life balance is said to have improved across all of the workplaces.

Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy, said the model should be adopted in the UK.

“This study shows that the world’s largest ever trial of a shorter working week in the public sector was by all measures an overwhelming success,” he said.

“It shows that the public sector is ripe for being a pioneer of shorter working weeks – and lessons can be learned for other governments.

“Iceland has taken a big step towards the four-day working week, providing a great real-life example for local councils and those in the UK public sector considering implementing it here in the UK.”

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The ground-breaking trials were made to be "revenue-neutral" for both of the city council and the government.

Gudmundur D. Haraldsson, a researcher, said: "The Icelandic shorter working week journey tells us that not only is it possible to work less in modern times, but that progressive change is possible too.

“Our roadmap to a shorter working week in the public sector should be of interest to anyone who wishes to see working hours reduced."

A poll published in July last year found that 63% of the public supported the idea of a four day week with no loss of pay, while only 12% opposed.

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