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Iceland has been testing a new way for people to work. The test was to see how people and employers reacted to working four days a week. In most countries, it is normal for people to work five days a week. They have been testing this in Iceland because they are thinking of new ways for people to work. The five-day workweek has been around for over 100 years. Most of the world has been using the five-day workweek since the 1920s. In recent years, there have been discussions about how we can improve the lives of workers. A four-day workweek is one of the alternatives that has been proposed.

The trial in Iceland has been a big success; it included about 1% of Iceland’s workforce. They tested the four-day workweek between 2015 and 2019. The test reduced the working days down to four and the weekly working hours down to 35 or 36 hours per week. This meant that employees worked longer but fewer days each week compared to the normal 40 hours, five-day workweek. In response to the test, workers said they felt less stress with the four-day workweek. The test showed they were healthier and had a better work/life balance because they had more time for their home lives. Work/life balance is something that people in many countries have been struggling with in recent years. The trial has also been good for employers. The test found that the productivity of employees during the four-day workweek went up or stayed the same in the majority of workplaces. So, employers didn’t lose any productivity by shortening the week and workers were happier for it. 

The success of the trial in Iceland means 86% of workers in the country can now work four days a week. Other countries have been doing their own tests of the four-day workweek too. Spain has started their own four-day workweek trial because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In New Zealand, the company Unilever has also allowed workers to cut their hours by 20% without lowering their pay. Between COVID-19 changing the way most people work and more studies into the wellness of workers, it seems like more countries and businesses might be open to changing the way employees work in the future. 

Difficult words

Employer (n): A person who gives a job to another person.

Propose (v): To suggest, or give the idea for something.

Workforce (n): All the people working in a country or organisation.

Struggling (adj): Having a difficult time.

Productivity (n): Being productive, being able to get work done.

Majority (n): The most of something.

Activities

For listening practise, listen to the recorded article here:

American English Audio: Coming Soon!

Match the Synonym!

1. EmployerA. Difficulty
2. ProposeB. Boss
 3. StrugglingC. Getting work done.
 4. ProductivityD. Most
 5. MajorityE. Suggest

True or False?

1. Iceland has been testing a two-day workweek. T / F

2. Most countries in the world use a five-day workweek. T / F

3. The five-day workweek has only been used for the past 20 years. T / F

4. The trial in Iceland has been a success. T / F

5. A New Zealand company has allowed their workers to work less. T / F

Unscramble the sentence!

1. for / way / Iceland / work / to / a new / testing / been / has / people

2. for / five-day / been / has / 100 years / The / workweek / over / around

3. days / to / reduced / test / The / four / down / the / working

4. stress / In / test, / to the / they felt / response / less / said / workers

5. own / have / tests / Other / been / countries / their / doing

Listening and Vocabulary

Listen to the article and fill in the words OR practice vocabulary and fill in the words.

American English Audio: Coming Soon!

BalanceTrialReacted
SuccessDiscussionsLowering

Iceland has been testing a new way for people to work. The test was to see how people and employers (1)__________ to working four days a week. In most countries, it is normal for people to work five days a week. They have been testing this in Iceland because they are thinking of new ways for people to work. The five-day workweek has been around for over 100 years. Most of the world has been using the five-day workweek since the 1920s. In recent years, there have been (2)______________ about how we can improve the lives of workers. A four-day workweek is one of the alternatives that has been proposed.

The trial in Iceland has been a big (3)___________; it included about 1% of Iceland’s workforce. They tested the four-day workweek between 2015 and 2019. The test reduced the working days down to four and the weekly working hours down to 35 or 36 hours per week. This meant that employees worked longer but fewer days each week compared to the normal 40 hours, five-day workweek. In response to the test, workers said they felt less stress with the four-day workweek. The test showed they were healthier and had a better work/life balance because they had more time for their home lives. Work/life (4)___________ is something that people in many countries have been struggling with in recent years. The trial has also been good for employers. The test found that the productivity of employees during the four-day workweek went up or stayed the same in the majority of workplaces. So, employers didn’t lose any productivity by shortening the week and workers were happier for it. 

The success of the (5)________ in Iceland means 86% of workers in the country can now work four days a week. Other countries have been doing their own tests of the four-day workweek too. Spain has started their own four-day workweek trial because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In New Zealand, the company Unilever has also allowed workers to cut their hours by 20% without (6)____________ their pay. Between COVID-19 changing the way most people work and more studies into the wellness of workers, it seems like more countries and businesses might be open to changing the way employees work in the future. 

Conversation Questions

Take turns speaking with a partner or try to answer on your own:

1. Did you find this article interesting? Why or why not?
2. Did you learn anything new from this article? If so, what?
3. What do you think of this story?
4. What is work culture like in your country?
5. Would you prefer to work longer days but only four days per week?
6. Do you think many countries will follow Iceland?
7. Has your work life improved since COVID-19 started?
8. Do you prefer working from home or working in an office?
9. What other ways can your work life be improved?
10. Do you feel valued by your employer?
11. Do workers in your country have strong protections from the government?
12. Should workers get to choose their working hours more freely?
13. Why do you think the five day work week has been around for so long?
14. Are companies in your country resistant to change?
15. Should employees be paid for the time they work or for what they produce?
16. How would more time away from work help your life?
17. What do you think working life will be like for workers in 50 years?
18. Has your country run any trials like the one in Iceland?
19. Do government workers get better benefits than private sector workers in your country?
20. What would your dream working life be?