Does Iceland Actually Have A 4-Day Work Week? (It’s Complicated)

Iceland's 4 day work week

Does Iceland have a 4-day work week?

No. From 2014 – 2021, Iceland ran two well-publicized trials of a 35-36 hour work week sponsored by the federal government. The combined studies came to be known as Iceland’s four-day work week study, but that title and the results are misleading.

As a result of the studies, many organizations did reduce their working hours. However, on average the public sector shortened their work week by just 65 minutes, and the private sector by just 35 minutes.

Why are people talking about Iceland’s 4-day work week?

From 2014 – 2019, the Reykjavik City Trial ran to test the reduction of work week hours from 40 to 35 or 36. The study started with just two workplaces and 66 total employees but grew to 2,500 employees over the course of the trial.

From 2017 – 2021, the Icelandic Government Trial ran with four workplaces participating in a test of a reduction from 40 hours of work to 36 without a reduction in pay.

By combining the two studies, 1.3% of Iceland’s total workforce (2,500 workers) participated in the trials of the shorter work week.

Its purpose, however, was to measure the impact in a reduction of work hours not to measure the effectiveness of a four-day work week. Participating companies had the option to choose a four-day work week and the press latched on. Although some companies did reduce working hours as a result of the trial, it was by minutes (on average) not hours.

“This [reduction in hours] shows increased respect for the
individual. That we are not just machines that just work … all
day. Then sleep and get back to work. [But that] we are persons
with desires and private lives, families and hobbies.”

Jóhannesson & Víkingsdóttir, June 2018, pp. 20–21

How many hours per week do people work in Iceland?

The average work week in Iceland is 33.6 hours.

In ranking countries from the shortest work week to the longest, Iceland ranks 150 out of 187 countries tracked by OECD (20th percentile).

  • 149 countries have a shorter work week than Iceland
  • 37 countries have a longer work week than Iceland

 

The average work work is calculated by taking the total annual hours worked per year divided by the average number of people in employment per year, divided by 52 weeks. Therefore, the average work week includes hours for full-time, part-time, and self-employed people. It is not the standard work week for full-time employees.

Source: OECD (2022), Hours worked (indicator). doi: 10.1787/47be1c78-en

View the average work hours per week for every country.

Have any 4-day work week bills been proposed in Iceland?

No. There are no official bills proposed in Iceland to shorten the definition of the work week from five days to four.

However, as a result of the two studies done from 2014 – 2021, many organizations did reduce their working hours by less than an hour. On average the public sector shortened their work week by just 65 minutes, and the private sector by just 35 minutes.

Track every four-day work week bill around the world here.

Have there been any 4-day trials or studies done in Iceland?

Sort of. Iceland is well known as the country with the four-day work week, but this is misleading. The country ran trials of a shorter working week (35-36 hours), but not a four-day work week.

From 2014 – 2019, the Reykjavik City Trial ran to test the reduction of work week hours from 40 to 35 or 36.

From 2017 – 2021, the Icelandic Government Trial ran with four workplaces participating in a test of a reduction from 40 hours of work to 36 without a reduction in pay.

Results from Iceland’s shorter work week study

Autonomy released the results of Iceland’s multi-year study in a document titled, GOING PUBLIC: ICELAND’S JOURNEY TO A SHORTER WORKING WEEK (June 2021). You can view that document below.

Track every four-day work week study here.

How many companies in Iceland have a 4-day work week?

Just one Icelandic company has announced a permanent, company-wide four-day work week*.

*This figured is pulled from Buildremote’s database of four-day work week companies, the most comprehensive list available.

Do you think our database is missing a company? Add a company here.

In which countries are the most 4-day companies located?

Right now, we have 177 four-day work week companies in our database across 20 countries. 38% of four-day work week companies are located in the United States, 36% are located in the United Kingdom, 7% are located in Canada. No other country takes more than a 3% share.

Here is an analysis of company adoption of the four-day work week by country.

4 day work week country adoption

View every country that has tested or implemented a four-day work week.

Learn more about the 4-day work week

I’ve personally run a four-day work week company since 2020. I’ve seen employee happiness and retention increase with no loss to productivity. Now I strive to provide the most comprehensive coverage of the four-day work week.

It seems that many individuals, companies, and countries are finally starting to question to standard, 40-hour work week for the first time in nearly a century. Follow along as we break down the trend.



4-Day Work Week: The Complete Overview

By country: Finland, United Kingdom, Belgium, United States, Iceland, Japan, Spain, Scotland, Lithuania

By state: California



About the author

Henry OLoughlin

Hi, I'm the founder of Buildremote. I have worked from home for a decade and run a fully remote, four-day work week company for eight years. I've made all of the mistakes running a remote company. I hope if you read my site, you'll be spared.

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