Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

The Four Day Week

From our Swindon Correspondent:

From the BBC

Trials of a four-day week in Iceland were an “overwhelming success” and led to many workers moving to shorter hours, researchers have said.

The trials, in which workers were paid the same amount for shorter hours, took place between 2015 and 2019.

Productivity remained the same or improved in the majority of workplaces, researchers said.

I’m rather sceptical about this. People worked 5 less hours per week, but produced more? That’s homeopathic. I could understand that cutting hours by 5 didn’t make much difference, but more?
So I went off and took a look at the Autonomy report into this, which is at
And here’s how they did it (from page 34):-
As mentioned earlier, a central aim of both trials was to ensure service provision remained the same following reductions in working time. To be able to work less while providing the same level of service, changes in the organisation of work therefore had to be implemented. Most commonly, this was done by rethinking how tasks were completed: shortening meetings, cutting out unnecessary tasks, and shifts arrangements (Government of Iceland, June 2019; Jóhannesson & Víkingsdóttir, 2018; Kjartansdóttir, Kjartansdóttir & Magnúsdóttir, 2018)  
So, these trials worked out, because they reorganised how they worked. There was 5 hours/week of unnecessary crap that they could cut out and still deliver. Instead of people sitting around munching biccies for an hour at a team meeting, you make it half an hour, for example.
This isn’t going to work in the private sector, because that’s just what management does. A company rearranges its timesheet or expenses process, so people save time filling it in. They don’t get to go home early because they are spending 5 minutes less on expenses. Either the management takes more profit, or they lower the price of the end product. It’s how we get richer. We pay people to do a certain number of hours and we try to constantly use that time more efficiently.
5 5 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Michael van der Riet
Michael van der Riet
3 months ago

The first thing to do to improve productivity would be to get rid of that brick of a phone. Make it something that can easily fit in a handbag or pocket.

The Mole
The Mole
3 months ago

I think you are being a mite optomistic over the effectiveness of many managers and the timescales over which changes happen. Remember most managers have been promoted to their level of incompetence.Most people are also lazy/risk adverse/reluctant to change and it takes a large shock to move them out of the status quo. (See covid and remote working) Many managers first interest is self promotion and increasing the size of their domain. As long as they aren’t blamed for the company making a loss they will probably prefer to have a higher headcount as it makes them more important. I’m… Read more »

John B
John B
3 months ago

Doesn’t it show that fewer public sector workers are required as there is not enough real work to keep them all fully occupied? It would make more sense to fire 20% of workers, which would have the same effect on productivity (work harder or get fired) and increase efficiency by lowering costs. The ‘workers’ weren’t actually producing anything tangible that a consumer could buy to make themselves wealthier. France moved to a 35 hour week… strictly observed… years ago. Productivity, measured as how much labour input per unit output is high… but output isn’t; it fell. The political genii actually… Read more »

3 months ago

I’ve always been more productive when I can turn up for work when I’m awake, not at some god-awful crack of cock crow just because the manager is some pyscopathic sadist who enjoys getting out of bed in the middle of the night and doesn’t see why their underlings shouldn’t. As a field engineer I’d aim to get on site about 10am-ish, and would phone ahead to say so, with the emphasis on the ish. I don’t know what the traffic’s going to be like, that first cup of tea might be off and need a replacement, I might need… Read more »

3 months ago

“changes in the organisation of work therefore had to be implemented.” We changed the definitions in the middle of the experiment and are pleased to report that it was a success. What hockey-stick science!

PS—Imagine the additional efficiency improvements if we were able to ditch employee workshops in Toxic Caucasity.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x