Iceland Cuts Working Hours With No Productivity Loss, Same Pay

Iceland has achieved the holy grail for working stiffs: same pay for shorter hours.

Results from two trials of reduced hours showed no productivity loss or decline in service levels, while employees reported less stress and an improved work-life balance, researchers at U.K.-based think tank Autonomy and Iceland’s Association for Sustainable Democracy said in a report.

Achieving shorter hours with sustained productivity and service levels involved rethinking how tasks were completed, according to the report. That included shortening meetings or replacing them with emails, cutting out unnecessary tasks, and rearranging shifts.

The trials, conducted from 2015 to 2019, cut hours to about 35 a week from 40 with no reduction in pay. Involving about 2,500 workers, equivalent to more than 1% of the Nordic country’s working population, results showed their “wellbeing dramatically increased,” the researchers said. Since then, 86% of Iceland’s entire working population have either moved to shorter hours or can negotiate to do so.

In Nordic peer Finland, Prime Minister Sanna Marin, 35, has suggested a four-day work week is worth looking into, saying employees deserve some of the trickle-down benefits of improved productivity. Even so, her government is currently not working on such policy.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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