We’ve talked a few times on the blog about taking breaks and how sometimes the best way to move forwards is to take a step back. Now, there’s even more evidence that giving yourself time to step away might be the best thing.

In 2015, Reykjavík City Council and the Icelandic national government began a major trial of shortening work weeks from a 40-hour to a 35- or 36-hour week, without reducing worker pay, according to a report published by the think-tank Autonomy. In 2017, they began a second major trial, which then grew to encompass almost 1 per cent of Iceland’s workforce. Workers of varying job and shifts (typical 9-5 as well as shift work) from all over Iceland were included, from health care workers, office workers, schools, etc.

The rests were promising. The majority of workplaces that took part in this trial saw productivity remain the same or improve. Most importantly, the wellbeing of workers improved across the board, including perception of stress, indicators of burnout, health, and work-life balance.

Autonomy now reports that approximately 86 per cent of Iceland’s working population have the right to shorten their working hours, which may indicate a change in how we view work.

The majority of workplaces that took part in this trial saw productivity remain the same or improve. Most importantly, the wellbeing of workers improved across the board, including perception of stress, indicators of burnout, health, and work-life balance.

From the Vault

We’ve previously looked at the benefit of shorter work days in a previous blog post, “Work less, do more?” From the article:

Steve Glaveski, CEO and co-founder of Collective Campus, put this one into practice and restricted his employees to a 6-hour work day. Glaveski believes that by restricting the amount of time his team is allowed to work, they will zero in on what is really important and then will have the mental and physical reserves to get it done.

Glaveski’s not the first to believe that working fewer hours will lead to the same amount of productivity over the long run. In August of 2019, Microsoft Japan experimented with cutting their workweek to 4 days, closing the office on Fridays. They actually found that their productivity increased by 40 per cent over August 2018.

Taking a step back can be incredibly difficult in a culture where we are constantly told more is better. More work, more success, more lines on the resume. The unending pressure to constantly hustle can cloud our judgement and sometimes drive us to do things for the sake of doing them, rather than because they bring value to our workplaces.

In August of 2019, Microsoft Japan experimented with cutting their workweek to 4 days, closing the office on Fridays. They actually found that their productivity increased by 40 per cent over August 2018.

Burnout and exhaustion are real concerns that have to be maintained, but also, just general stress and tiredness can get in the way of a successful day. Taking a step back allows us to re-orient our priorities, get fresh new ideas from places outside of our desk and daily routines, and take care of daily life.

What if we just tried to cut down on our hours? Would that be such a terrible thing?

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