The 4-day Work Week and Parkinson’s Law

Between the years of 2015 and 2019, Iceland ran a 4-day work week trial and the results have been described as “an overwhelming success.”

In the trials, workers from a variety of industries were paid the same amount for shorter hours and across the board, productivity remained the same or improved. There was also feedback that work life balance improved, burn out decreased, and overall morale improved. Trials are now being run in Spain and New Zealand.

The company Service Direct saw the dramatic toll that the pandemic was taking on their employees and looked for a way to maximize productivity while increases the work life balance. They chose to implement an alternating 4-day work week and reported their findings. Their employees would work five days one week, and four the next. They received positive feedback just a few months after beginning, and almost all felt that their productivity had improved as a result.

Additionally, Work Life wrote a really interesting article about a company called Atlassian, who ran an intensive study to measure success during a 4-day work week trial. Work Life talks about something called Parkinson’s Law, which says that work “expands” to fill the time you allot for it.

Their study was to find out whether or not the inverse was also true. With less time, could you become more focused to complete tasks? They came away with dozens of insights in all areas of productivity–and the main takeaway seems to be that, at the very least, it’s worth trying out. Even a slight reduction in the time you spend working can have a measurable influence over your health.

So, are we ready for this kind of shift?

The downsides to the 4-day work week are less represented but they do exist. Mainly, if people are already overworked and basically working as fast as they can, eliminating a day from their schedule would only exacerbate the problem. It’s also not something that could every be adopted in all industries across the board, like for gig or hourly workers who depend on all five days of income.

This isn’t something that’s going to have an easy, one-size-fit-all answer, but this shift in mentality is certainly something worth talking about.

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