Have you ever felt exhausted from a long day at work? Or, felt as if you don’t have enough hours in the day to accomplish all your tasks? According to recent studies done in Europe, you are not alone. Many people from across the globe feel as if their lives revolve around their job. Now, it is time to change that problem with shorter workweeks.

Recently, a study in Iceland was performed to see how many workers were left feeling overworked at their job. According to the statistics, one in four Icelandic workers felt too tired to do simple tasks after their work week. The country took notice of this predicament and decided to do a trial to see if shorter work weeks would benefit the economy and its employees. 

The goal of the trial

  • To see if time reduction would improve the health and well-being of employees.
  • To see if time reduction could increase productivity at work. 

When the trial was implemented, four workplaces were selected to participate in the study with four other workplaces used as control groups.

Employees were able to receive the same weekly payment that they normally received but were given a reduction in the number of hours they worked every week. 

The results of the trial

  • Increased productivity and service provision.
  • Improved health of employees.

According to the study, workers felt a tremendous weight lifted off their shoulders. Many were finally able to finish housework that they had never gotten around to doing, and others were able to implement self-care into their daily routine. According to the study, there were a total of six ways that employees benefited from having more time off:

  • ability to run errands
  • time to make home improvements
  • moments of self-care
  • having more time for the children 
  • exercising more
  • living a healthier lifestyle
photo of people leaning on wooden table
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Overall, the study was not easy to conduct, and the changes took a lot of time for the employers to get used to. However, many individuals benefited from these changes in their everyday lives.

“Our workplace joined the trial and as a part of that we introduced various changes,” said an anonymous employee in Autonomy. “Instead of doing the same, usual routine as before, people re-evaluated how to do things and suddenly people are doing things very differently from before.”

Many studies during the government trials showed a major improvement when it came to the stress levels of employees after cutting work hours. Majority of employees were able to feel healthier and live a better lifestyle. However, not everyone was able to benefit from the changes of shorter work weeks. 

“This was a bit of work,” said a manager in Autonomy. “Figuring out a good strategy of shortening hours was a bit complex.” Other employers went on to say that they did find some difficulty in adjusting to the new work week, but, over time, it became the new normal. 

So, now we are left with one common question: why has this study not been brought to America? This is a mystery that most individuals cannot figure out. However, there are a list of reasons that could be holding back the United States government trial for shorter work weeks:

  • The United States has a shorter work-week than Iceland already: according to The Balance Career, the average American works 34 hours per week. Iceland, however, has a work-week of 47 hours for men and 37 hours for women (39 hours on average). These hours in the study were reduced to 30 hours per week with a four-day workweek.
  • The United States has a bigger population: According to Investopedia, the GDP per capita in the United States is $63,050 USD amongst the overall population of 331.05 million people. In Iceland, the GDP per capita is $46,981 USD amongst the overall population of 0.36 million people. Compared to the US, this is a much smaller working population to cover, which could be the reason for the delay in government trials to hit the United States.
  • Financial consequences for employers: although the Iceland trial was successful, the biggest downfall was that some employers had to hire more staff to compensate for the reduced hours. This increased costs for many employers and could be a worry if it were to be brought to the US. 

Nonetheless, the question of whether we should have reduced work hours is one that many Americans are left pondering over. With little time left for a life outside of our job, we are all left waiting for the day we receive fewer workdays. 

Hannah Walker

Hannah Walker is a health reporter at The Pavlovic Today.