Infographic of the month – February

4-day week – a model for the future?

Author: Gabriela Hein
Video: Maxi Ringlieb
Date: 15.02.22

The 5-day workweek is considered the standard almost everywhere in the world. But there is a growing body of evidence that the 4-day week could be better. As the debate rages on, there is much to be said for a reduction in working hours.

Iceland shows the way

Between 2015 and 2019, the world’s largest experiment of a 4-day week took place in Iceland. 2500 workers took part in total – equivalent to one percent of the country’s population. Instead of 40, they worked only 35 or 36 hours. With the same pay.

The result had been an overwhelming success. In almost all areas, the shorter working hours have had positive effects:

  • Improved work-life balance
  • Optimized work processes and more efficient use of working hours
  • Increased productivity
  • Reduction of stress

Today, a total of about 86% of the Icelandic working population now has the right to reduced working hours.

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Positive effects increase productivity above all

A British study found that in an 8-hour-working day, people work only for 2 hours and 53 minutes per day in a truly productive manner. 54% even said they have to distract themselves with private things like social media, job hunting, phone calls, news websites, to make the day bearable.

With a shortened work schedule, there is no time for such things. Work is reorganized so that the same workload can be accomplished in less time. In addition, employees are willing to take fewer breaks in order to have more free time.

Challenges of the 4-day week

As positive as the effects are, however, implementation is also challenging.

  • Savings in the wrong place? Personal exchange with colleagues is important to employees. With shorter working hours, this can quickly fall by the wayside.
  • Not equally feasible for all sectors: Areas such as healthcare, medicine or social services incur enormous costs and additional staff must be hired.
  • Danger of salary cuts: If you reduce your working hours from 5 to 4 days, this does not mean that your salary will remain the same. Many employees would most likely have to adjust to a lower salary.


The 4-day week is not a no-brainer, because processes have to be adapted to keep the economy running equally well. But it is an enormous gain for everyone’s health, and in many areas, companies can benefit from exactly that. Happy employees, happy economy!

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