To reduce burnout and boost productivity, could the US move to a 4-day work week?

“The underlying reasons for moving to a shorter working week are as present in the U.S. as anywhere else. There are just as many workers who feel overworked, burnt out, distressed by jobs, and who are suffering themselves,” says researcher Jack Kellam. Photo by Shutterstock.

A new study in Iceland found that a shorter work week could boost both worker happiness and productivity. Employers there cut their staff’s hours to about 35 per week (about nine hours per day) and kept their pay the same. 

“Researchers found improvements in their work-life balance and their sense of well-being,” says Jack Kellam, study co-author and researcher with the British think tank Autonomy

He says because workers felt more rested, they performed better and weren’t trying to get away from their duties. 

The study involved employees from a wide range of industries, including law enforcement, child care, medicine, and office administration. All of them — no matter their rank — identified how to streamline a work week. 

People assume that if you spend more time working, you get more things done, but the Icelandic study shows that those two things can be detached, Kellam explains.

He predicts there could be a global shift towards a shorter work week, due in part to universal exhaustion felt by workers everywhere.

“The underlying reasons for moving to a shorter working week are as present in the U.S. as anywhere else. There are just as many workers who feel overworked, burnt out, distressed by jobs, and who are suffering themselves.”