Human Capital Management

Should Your Organization Consider a 4 Day Workweek Like Iceland?

/ July 20, 2021 July 20, 2021

Earlier this year, Iceland announced the pilot of a four-day workweek was a success. 86% of employees in the country currently have the option to work a reduced week with no reduction in pay or other time off. The expectation is that employees would still complete the same amount of work, just in less time. The country has realized this effort to prioritize better work-life balance benefits not only the business but the personal wellbeing of people and society overall. 

According to research, 25% of absences can be attributed to stress at work. Iceland set out to address the underlying causes of overwork and underproductivity. Participants said having an additional day off allowed them to run errands, more evenly share in home duties, exercise, and spend quality time with family and friends. It allowed employees to really decompress, allowing them to return to work feeling refreshed and ready to focus. The country also noted environmental benefits, such as offices conserving energy and fewer cars on the road. 

One big lesson we have all learned from the past year is that employees spend a lot of time on non-productive things, such as commuting or scrolling online. Iceland’s study found productivity and service remained the same during the pilot.  Participating employers found that reducing hours worked per week and rethinking certain business practices such as shortened meetings and rethinking how certain tasks are completed resulted in better employee focus. A study conducted by Gartner in 2021 reported that 43% of workers surveyed attributed higher levels of productivity to flexible work hours. Whether it’s a shorter workweek or hybrid location arrangements, employers should consider alternate solutions that provide more flexibility to employees while still meeting operational needs.  

As we enter our next normal, people are going to have different expectations of their employers, of work-life balance, and of how companies treat their employees. According to a study by FlexJobs, 30% of employees left a company because it did not offer flexible job options, and 80% of employees said they would be more loyal to their employer if they had flexible work offerings. While some organizations may not agree, employers must think about these points in order to remain competitive. Employees have now had an unplanned 1+ year experiment working from home. They continued to work hard, but still had the opportunity to get those unproductive hours back and enjoy time with family or to pursue new hobbies. Going forward, companies must get creative with their scheduling moving forward to attract and retain exceptional talent. 

The four-day workweek may not work for every organization and industry, but every employer should think about how to create a better environment that allows employees to bring their whole selves to work. People that feel satisfied in their personal lives will be better equipped to handle professional needs, especially as the pandemic has blurred the lines between personal and professional life. 

COVID-19 pandemic forced many organizations to press the pause button. As employers prepare to return to the workplace, they should ask the question, what can we do more of, less of, or differently?  How can we be better? What will this look like for your company? 


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