Will working four days a week make you healthy, happy and more productive?

An Icelandic study has found a four-day work week can benefit productivity, stress, health and happiness

Team working in an office
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you've been working from home as a result of the global pandemic, you've probably already bought your best office chair and best desk lamp and are enjoying the flexibility of having a home office. 

However, there might be more even more flexibility in future, as more and more research is proving the positives of a four-day work week. With the Icelandic government getting behind the project after two hugely successful trials, it remains to be seen if more governments will follow suit. 

The latest research comes from Reykjavik City and the Icelandic government, published by the UK think tank Autonomy. From 2015 to 2019, two large-scale trials ran a four-day working week, totalling 35-36 hours, with no total reduction in pay. Around 1% of Iceland's working population – 2,500 workers in total – took part in the study. 

Surprisingly, the trial was considered a huge success. Since its completion in 2019, around 86% of the country’s workforce are now working shorter hours, reducing from 40 to 36 hours, with no negative economic impact. 

Working

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The report published by Autonomy writes: "Across both trials, many workers expressed that after starting to work fewer hours they felt better, more energised, and less stressed, resulting in them having more energy for other activities, such as exercise, friends and hobbies. This then had a positive effect on their work."

So would you benefit from a four-day week? All the evidence points to "yes". Another New Zealand study backed by a Financial Services firm found staff stress levels were down from 45% to 38%. As stress went down, work-life balance scores increased from 54% to 78%.

Stanford University also conducted a study which found overworked employees were less productive. A three-day weekend allows people to spend more time with their families, get more exercise and have less of a sedentary lifestyle, leading to a generally healthier workforce.

It remains to be seen if the world at large adopts these changes. But you can make your work time healthier by taking regular breaks, getting outside during lunch and drinking more water (and eating less high-sugar snacks) at your desk. 

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and Channel Editor at Fit&Well. He's previously written for titles like Men's Health and Red Bull, and covers all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen kickboxer and runner. His top fitness tip? Stretch.