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Iceland found that work 35h/week with same pay as 40h have better productivity [pdf] (autonomy.work)
52 points by giuliomagnifico 21 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 17 comments



Recent and related:

World’s largest ever four day week trial in Iceland ‘overwhelming success’ - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27733827 - July 2021 (120 comments)

Could a four-day working week become the norm? - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27780872 - July 2021 (102 comments)


I'm sure in favor of the US moving the federal workweek to 36 hours and encouraging 4x9.

- Reducing the supply of labor can be expected to push up wages a little. (And lacks some of the distortions that playing with the minimum wage does-- though minimum wages are also necessary).

- It's a good hedge against automation.

- It's a massive improvement in quality of life for the entire population.

- It's not that big of a hit on total productivity in most jobs. (But some things, like retail/restaurant/etc that need coverage still will require more people, helping the other points).

- Less commuting, etc, will stretch our road infrastructure a little further and reduce fossil fuel usage a little.


The most productive (and probably happiest) was when I was able to work fewer hours. I was the only one on my team at this location so I would roll in a bit before 7am, eat lunch 10:30-11am, and leave around 1-2 when my brain told me it was done coding for the day.

Once in awhile I'd get a eureka moment on the commute home and write a little bit more code otherwise I'd just let my mind wander and get home refreshed.


I hope research on this continues. I’m willing to bet that we don’t even have to increase the hours for the 4 days of work and there would be a similar result.

Every time I truly run out of time for work in a week, it is due to poor management/planning and too many meetings. Obviously anecdotal.

I think we (as a society) are wayyy off to one side of the bell curve of productivity vs hours worked. If I had to guess I’d say a work week of 24 hours would be perfect (6 hours for 4 days). This doesn’t include lunches or breaks. If we had less time to waste we would waste less time.


"If we had less time to waste we would waste less time."

Citation needed here. I personally wouldn't be so sure about that


I think that the evidence that productivity rises as the workweek shortens provides some evidence of this.

There's only so many hours you can be productive-- energy is limited. Employers usually can't insist that you're all-business working at maximum productivity for a 40 hour week because most people, in practice, don't/can't come anywhere close to attaining this and it's enough time. So the door is opened to random work social conversations, checking facebook, personal phone calls, etc. Further, the perceived cost of a questionably-valued meeting goes down as there's more hours in the week to fill.

Shortening the work week and demanding similar productivity would be good for everyone, I think.


I think the idea that we need to work 40 hours is a relic of a time when most work was manual labor. It does make sense if your job involves physical labor. Mining, working industrial machines, cooking food all requires you to put in those hours and kind of makes sense that your productivity is proportional to how much you work.

However, modern white collar jobs don't necessarily need 40 hours. A lot of weekly modern work could be done in less time. In fact, in a lot of jobs, people try to do unproductive work just to fill out the time requirements. Unnecessary meetings, inefficient workflows, paper pushing, make work etc. would all disappear if we just worked less. Another problem with work that requires you to use your brain is that it is literally impossible to stay fully focussed for 8-9 hours every single day. There are going to be unproductive stretches, and you'd rather not work during those than to force yourself into working through them, because those are the stretches when you make mistakes and create more work for yourself, thereby reducing productivity.


Somehow, I still can't wrap my mind around working less and producing more, as I have never found this to be the case with myself. I don't want to dismiss these results entirely, so its an interesting study nonetheless. Maybe the real takeaway is not that they productivity wasn't impacted, but there was less time spent being unproductive?


I can imagine there being a small (absolute) productivity boost due to psychology for some people.

Given fewer hours to do the same amount of work, I can see a lot of people feeling slightly more pressure, and because of this, entering into more states of productive and efficient work. On the other hand, given more hours to do the same amount of work, many people will procrastinate more often, which makes it harder to enter those more efficient states of "deep work". This could lead to a lower amount productivity per hour, and depending on the magnitude of this difference, this could somewhat paradoxically add up to a smaller amount of actual work done.

Another thing which could contribute to increased productivity per hour is more sleep and less stress gained by working fewer hours, especially when compounded over time.


That is part of what they targeted, there was even committees that formed to figure out how get rid of things like meetings.


Interesting the figure 1 shows productivity per hour worked (rather than absolute productivty). So in the UK the line is flat, so the more hours worked the more "production" there is. So just work the workers harder.

In Iceland by comparison (and taking the report at face value), productivity per hour increases from ~1880 to ~1980 (~5%) for a 5 hour (12.5%) reduction in hours.So - assuming there is a plentiful labour supply - better to work lots of people for fewer hours than to work fewer people for lots of hours. Not a bad strategy from an overall absolute producttivity point of view - assuming, of course, that labourers are plentiful and interchangeable.

So where do we end? Clearly we can work people harder over shorter periods than we can over longer periods (hello young doctors). Economists generally agree on this as increasing productivty (barring some quibbling ove incidentals) - but at what cost?


I don't know about y'all but I'm paid for working 40 and maybe hit 25-30 each week and I get stellar performance reviews. This isn't possible to swing in every profession but at least in my job (data science at a F500) no one expects you to put in a full 40 as long as your output is good.


"Interestingly, Iceland remains in a very different economic situation from many of its nearby countries in the OECD rankings on work-life balance." (Page 13)

It does seem like Iceland and this study are in some significant ways different than many other places. I would suspect cutting hours and/or days worked in a week would have the same results just about anywhere with the same types of jobs though. Or at least I'd like to believe that it would. I know most of the places I've worked wouldn't see much of a drop if people only went in 4 days a week, or spent less time there every day.

That being said, I can't imagine managers and C level people being willing to even try this in very many places, at least in the US.


We've been doing that in France for almost 20 years now? Most of us get more days off. Some work 35h a week. Work is more intense, less coffee breaks. I think there's still some fat to trim but the equilibrium seems OK.


I’ve been living in France for the last year. What I don’t understand is how you can be productive with those very long lunch breaks that are common here. If I have a break longer than about 30 minutes, I lose all focus and momentum.

Fortunately, I work from home at my own schedule, and I can usually have a quick lunch alone at my desk.


It's... Cultural. You finish later. Before I had kids I'd do the whole long meal + activity (music) at lunch. After a good meal and a long pause I felt full of energy and patience, and slumped into deep concentration without thinking about it. Finished around 7pm (started 7am) and went home or out, full of energy.

Now I want to see my kids before they go to sleep, so I just eat a quick sandwich (which most of my entourage has kids and does that anyway), I feel tired sooner, a bit on edge, and will easily get distracted throughout afternoon.

I think it's mostly the power of habit. I've seen all kinds of lunch arrangements work. Mostly, I think I don't care if anyone does different :-)


are they trying 30h/week then? This would be nonsensical if they aren't.




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