Iceland's trial of shortening working hours draws attention

  The four-day work system tests how many countries are happy and what are they worrying about?

  Is two days off a week enough?

Many friends at work may answer: Not enough!

The good news is here: Iceland’s "four-day work week" experiment was "greatly successful." Although I don’t know when the three-day break will come, many people have seen the dawn of the "four-day work system".

  On July 4, the British think tank Autonomy published on its official website the research results of Iceland's "four-day work week" experiment, saying that it had achieved an "overwhelming success" locally.

The experiment was organized by the Icelandic government and the city council of Reykjavík, the capital, and was conducted between 2015 and 2019. More than 2500 workers participated, accounting for about 1% of the Icelandic working population.

The results showed that the trial of the "four-day work system" not only did not increase the workload of Icelandic workers, but also improved the mentality and health of most workers.

At present, about 86% of Icelandic workers have negotiated and signed labor contracts that shorten their working hours.

  In addition to Iceland, other countries have also introduced the "four-day work system" test. The Spanish government is preparing to allocate 50 million euros to support the upcoming "four-day work system" test, which will last for three years; New Zealand "Unilever" From December 2020, the staff will work for four days and have three days off. If the test results in December this year are satisfactory, "Unilever" will promote the "four-day work system" among employees worldwide.

  However, the experiment of shortening working hours still met with resistance from many people. Just as the Spanish government plans to invest 50 million euros in this experiment, many Spaniards believe that this is a complete use of public funds, and the Spanish production model is not suitable for " Four-day work system"; Britain and the United States also want to "transplant" Iceland's "four-day work system", but they have also been thrown cold water.

Compared with working hours, people are more worried about the employment rate and wages.

  The American Paddleboard Company began experimenting with the "five-hour work system" model in 2015. At first, the company's profits rose sharply, but 44% of its employees left two years later; the marketing planning company Agent in Liverpool, UK, was invited by the BBC to participate in the "Six-Hour Work" model. Although the work schedule is more organized, the pressure on the employees is greater in the trial of the "work system"; after that, the German consulting agency Rheingans also introduced the "five-hour work system". Like the American paddle board company, they found shorter working hours. Although the pace of everyone’s work has been accelerated, it has also reduced the time for communication. The interpersonal relationships and team communication within the company are in vain.

  Iceland's "four-day work" trial improves health and mentality of participants

  Spain and New Zealand also have plans to promote this trial

  From 2015 to 2019, Iceland has been implementing a "four-day work system" experiment in the country, which means that workers use four days to complete five days of work, but the wages remain unchanged.

The experiment covered about 100 workplaces in Iceland, including kindergartens, hospitals, schools, and office buildings. More than 2500 workers participated in the experiment, accounting for about 1% of the working population in Iceland.

  Over the past four years, the weekly working hours of 2500 workers have been reduced from 40 hours to 35 to 36 hours. The workers who participated in the experiment said that they felt less stress, less exhaustion, and everyone was more active and happy at work.

Some participants said that reducing working hours means that they can spend more time exercising and socializing, which will actually improve their performance at work.

At the same time, some people pointed out that their work and family life have become more harmonious.

  The British think tank Autonomy and the Iceland Sustainable Democracy Association published research results on July 4, showing that currently about 86% of Icelandic workers have negotiated and signed labor contracts that shorten their working hours.

  Iceland's "four-day work system" test is currently the largest of its kind in the world. In addition to Iceland, many countries have also introduced a four-day work week test.

According to a report by the British "Guardian" in March this year, the Spanish government approved a three-year pilot program that will implement a "four working day" system across Spain. If the program is passed, the government will provide 50 million euros. Support enterprises to implement this plan: the government will provide full cost subsidies to enterprises in the first year, half of the costs in the following year, and about one-third of the costs in the third year.

  This plan was proposed by the small Spanish left-wing party "Maspai". The spokesperson of the party, Inigo Errejon, said on Twitter that the working hours in Spain are higher than the average level of other countries in Western Europe, but the productivity is low. Not one of the highest countries, so he insists that longer working hours does not mean increased productivity.

  The epidemic is also one of the reasons for the implementation of the “four-day working day” system in Spain. Many Spanish companies have begun to implement the “four-day working system” during the 2020 epidemic, such as the La Francachela restaurant in Madrid. Taking care of children while working makes him realize the importance of balancing work and life.

Therefore, the restaurant has increased profits by increasing schedules and introducing new technologies, such as using small programs such as Whatsapp to accept orders, so that although the working hours of employees are reduced, the salary will not decrease, and the restaurant will not lose.

The restaurant’s partner Maria Alvarez said in an interview with Euronews in April this year: “(Our) personal life and family life are also part of the economy. They need to be taken care of. We have to learn to put them first. Bit." Alba Herrero is a waiter in the restaurant. She works four days a week, and she spends the remaining three days learning how to be a teacher.

  The global consumer goods giant "Unilever" also began to trial the "four-day work system" in its New Zealand office in December 2020. All 81 New Zealand salespeople participated in the trial. The trial will continue for one year until December this year.

"Unilever" will evaluate the effect of this experiment and consider whether to promote it further.

  In an interview with The Guardian in May 2020, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden also emphasized the benefits of the "four-day work system". He believes that this will help New Zealand's economy recover from the epidemic and promote the development of domestic tourism. .

  Policy makers "wishful thinking" to implement the "four-day work system"?

  Workers don’t care about working hours, they care more about wages

  The success of the Icelandic experiment does not mean that all countries apply the “four-day work system”. Northern Europe has a developed economy, sparsely populated areas, long rest periods and low wages. However, people in some countries do not support this. This kind of work model, they believe that working four days a week will make people lose their jobs, lower wages, or make life more stressful.

  The Spanish people are very dissatisfied with their country's "four-day work system" policy.

Inigo Errejón, a spokesperson for the small Spanish left-wing party "Maspai", mentioned the "four-day work system" on Twitter in February this year. Someone directly initiated a vote in the reply to let people choose whether to support the weekly. Worked for 32 hours, the results showed that 68.4% of people chose not to support.

There are many reasons for objection. Some netizens bluntly stated that they intend to embezzle government funds to conduct a research with no results. This reply has won the approval of many people; some people put it more euphemistically, thinking that the Spanish production model may be inconsistent. It is not suitable for the "four-day work system", and rash implementation will only hurt the economy.

  It has to be said that when Iceland’s trial of shortening working hours was “successful”, policymakers in many countries were “headed up”, hoping that their country could also make employees happier and work better like Iceland. Good, but the people of this country are more calm than those in power, and they have poured cold water on this good wish.

  The leader of the British Labor Party, Kyle Starmer, said on Twitter on July 28 that the UK should also reduce working hours so that people and their families can spend more time together, making the UK the best country to work in.

Some people support this, saying that this is a policy suitable for the 21st century and encouraging the Labor Party to continue to publish these policies for the benefit of the people, but some people are opposed to it. A netizen named "Marc Allinson" replied: "You do (let We have found a balance between life and work. The unemployment rate has risen, the employment rate has fallen, and people have more time to enjoy themselves. Unfortunately, they have no wages and only meager subsidies. Our unemployment rate was always the highest during the Labor Party’s administration. "There are also some people who think this policy is unrealistic. They ask Starmer to see what the work of teachers, factory workers, doctors and nurses is like-they work more than six days a week, not to mention working four days.

  On the same day, Rep. Mark Takano, the Japanese Democratic Party of California, also proposed a plan to work 32 hours a week. Netizens were obviously not very concerned about working hours, but more concerned about their wages. They asked Takano "Why do I The wages are getting less?" "Can reducing working hours instead of raising the minimum wage help the poor?" or "Is there any overtime pay for more than 32 hours? Who will pay me?"

  Eight-hour work system VS five-hour work system

  "Work without rest makes everyone feel like fighting in a trench"

  The test to shorten the working time not only shortened the working days, but also shortened the working hours per day.

In fact, like workdays and weekends, the "eight-hour work system" is also a relatively young concept: in 1817, Robert Owen, the father of modern human resource management, proposed the "eight-hour work system" and created the "eight-hour work system." "Eight hours of entertainment, eight hours of rest" is a famous slogan. In 1914, the Ford Motor Company of the United States consolidated this system. The "eight-hour work system" increased the productivity of Ford Motor plants and attracted major companies to compete. Following the example, the concept of the eight-hour work system was widely accepted.

  A century ago, Ford Motor Company made people realize that working more than ten hours a day is not as good as working eight hours a day. So, can shorter working hours lead to more output?

Later, new attempts began again.

  American Paddle Board CEO Stephen Alstall began experimenting with the "five-hour work system" model in 2015-Alstall changed the company’s working hours from 8 am to 1 pm, and employees are here There is no time to rest, and no time to eat.

The effect of the experiment was very good. The company's revenue increased by 50% that year, but two years later, the company had a large-scale outflow of employees, with 44% of employees leaving the company.

In April 2017, Alstor abandoned the plan to implement the "five-hour work system" throughout the year and changed it to be implemented every summer.

  Alstall wrote in the "Fast Company" magazine his experience of conducting the "five-hour work system" experiment. He believes that the "five-hour work system" does require further fine-tuning, but it is generally successful.

According to his memories, the "five-hour work system" has brought many benefits to the company. One is that the company must complete the work within five hours, which requires the company to fully adopt the latest paddle board production technology, and the increase in productivity brought about by the introduction of technology The annual salary of employees has risen from 36,000 US dollars to 50,000 US dollars, which is also the second benefit, which undoubtedly improves the enthusiasm of employees in all aspects.

  Regarding the brain drain, Alstor was very confused at first, but then he summed up the reason: "Working without rest makes everyone feel like fighting in the trenches, and we have lost the company culture."

  Results of trials to shorten working hours are mixed

  Behind the increase in work efficiency is the outflow of employees and the increase in pressure

  Agent, a marketing planning company in Liverpool, UK, has also discovered the shortcomings of the short-time work system: In 2016, Agent was invited by the BBC to participate in a TV program, asking them to try to implement the "six hours a day" work model in the company. The trial lasted for one month. , The results were mixed.

  "There were a lot of benefits in the beginning," said Agent CEO Paul Cocoran.

"We started to assign tasks from the perspective of time. For example, we said,'It takes 15 minutes to complete this task and 30 minutes to complete that task', and then focus on delivering tasks in this way. Our employees travel staggered and avoid the most During the congested hours, because they come to work at 9 am instead of 8:30, and they leave work early, they have time to pick up the children."

  But the shortcomings of the program also quickly appeared. Employees began to pay too much attention to how to compress their work to be completed in shorter and shorter periods of time. But Kelun said: "Our idea is to give people more freedom, but we Finding that things started to become'we have to get everything done in this period of time', which makes employees feel more pressure. "After all, not everyone can finish their work within six hours, and most people are very satisfied with leaving get off work early. But not being able to complete the work within the specified time has doubled their pressure.

Finally, Agent gave up the "six-hour work system" and adopted the model of "two days of short-term work and three days of long-term work" for everyone.

  The German consulting firm Rheingans joined the "five-hour work system" trial in 2019. The company’s CEO Lars Rheingen said that when he first proposed the idea of ​​reducing working hours, employees wanted to disable smartphones during office hours. Equal distractions and try to minimize the use of "productivity killers" like Slack (a enterprise collaboration software).

  Rheingen’s original goal was to keep productivity unchanged, but to give employees more time off.

However, although work efficiency has improved and the relationship between work and life has been balanced, he faces the same dilemma as Alstor, CEO of American Paddleboard Company-the company’s team spirit has disappeared, and the employee’s sense of belonging to the company has also disappeared. Because the short-term fast-paced work makes everyone no longer communicate, the interpersonal relationship and team communication in the company are useless.

  Rita Fontingha, associate professor of strategic human resource management at the Henry Business School of the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, believes that the advantages of shortening working hours are obvious-"it is not only good for the personal quality of life in the workplace, but also conducive to improving the overall performance of the team." ; But the drawbacks are also obvious. Her research emphasizes the problems caused by the short-term work discovered by Kekelen and Reingen.

  "While shorter working hours help people better manage time and improve concentration, it may also increase the pressure on them to complete tasks within the specified time." Rita said, "As (my) research shows That way, employees value the flexibility of this kind of work, allowing them to spend more time at work when necessary, or to finish work ahead of schedule."

  Is it a "money for a moment" or "with half the effort"?

  Flexible working hours are more popular

  The COVID-19 pandemic raging around the world poses a challenge to the fixed work model. When the economies of various countries are severely hit, the new work system may bring new vitality to enterprises and society.

  In the 2020 employment outlook data released by the World Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), there are two very interesting data sets-Mexico and South Korea.

OECD statistics show that the average actual working hours of employees in Mexico and South Korea are among the top, Mexico ranks second in the organization, and employees work 2,124 hours a year on average; South Korea ranks fourth, with 1,908 hours a year. .

However, the hourly productivity of employees in the two countries is vastly different. Mexico ranks second from the bottom, while South Korea ranks eighth. This makes people wonder whether working hours are better or "half the effort". "Better?

  The test results of shortening working hours are half good and half bad. Although profits of some companies have improved and employees are more active in their work, not all companies are suitable for shortening working hours.

For example, the Black Valley Elderly Nursing Home in Gothenburg, Sweden has also conducted a six-hour work day trial, but shortening personal working hours means that the nursing home needs to hire more employees to increase the number of shifts, and the labor cost has also risen sharply, so the working time is reduced. The shortening has increased the company's expenditure.

  Many studies have shown that most people’s creativity will diminish after five hours of concentration, but not all jobs require creativity. Just like this nursing home, most staff do not need too much creativity. Therefore, the short-time work system is not suitable for them.

  In fact, whether it is to increase or decrease working hours, it is necessary to take corresponding measures according to the actual situation of each company. This is exactly what the epidemic has brought to people: flexible working hours can improve lives.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the long commute time was replaced by telecommuting. The cumbersome weekly meeting was listed by the office software. People arranged their lives and work more flexibly at home, and some people returned to their long-lost family life. Changes brought about by flexible work.

  Successful examples of flexible work appeared in Australia-Melbourne-based digital marketing company Versa decided in 2018 that the company would be closed every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. The "mini week" is very popular, and the pressure on employees is less, and it is so flexible. The arrangement turned every Thursday into a "Monday", and employees' attention and work intensity were adjusted.

In 2019, Versa’s profits tripled and overall revenue increased by 30% to 40%.

  The successful case of Versa was reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in April 2019. John Macdonald, the shadow cabinet minister of the British Labor Party, agreed with this approach. He said: “We should work for life, not for Work and live." This edition text / Tian Mengyuan

Keywords: