A massive five-year trial in Iceland exploring the effects of a shorter working week is reporting significantly positive outcomes. The results suggest cutting just four or five hours from a standard work week can lead to dramatic increases in worker well-being and improvements in productivity.
The five-day, 40-hour work week was well and truly entrenched in the 20th century. Previously, the industrial revolution resulted in work dominating life to such an unhealthy extent it wasn’t unusual for people to work 16 hours a day, six days a week. Across the late 1800s demand for better regulation of work hours ultimately culminated in US federal laws setting the maximum work week at 40 hours, with overtime for hours worked beyond that threshold.