Reduced working hours in the labor market – what are the consequences?

The labor market is subject to constant change and new trends, often driven by changes in societal values, technological developments and economic conditions. Over the past 100 years, there has been a gradual decrease in working hours, but also in recent years we have seen trends where employees work less, including “4-day working weeks”, “quiet quitting” and “loud quitting”. In this blog post we delve into some of the trends and examine the consequences of employees working less.

Working hours over time

Since the year 1900, the number of working hours in a normal working week has been reduced as a result of several different collective agreements. In the table below, you can get an overview of the development of working hours in the period 1900-2023:

YearWeekly working hours
Number of weekly working hours in Denmark 1900-2023. Source:

As shown in the table, the number of weekly working hours in Denmark has been reduced historically. However, we have had no official change to the number of hours for over 30 years, but that does not mean that the labor market and the employees’ view of work has remained the same in this period. Below we delve into 3 of the most current trends on the labor market, all of which point in the direction of a movement towards employees consciously reducing their working hours or commitment to their work.

Four day work week

The “4-day work week” is a model where employees work fewer hours while maintaining the same pay and benefits. The model has been praised for promoting work-life balance, reducing stress and increasing overall job satisfaction.

A 2023 study by Cambridge University examines the consequences of a 4-day working week among 61 English companies over 6 months. These were primarily companies within knowledge services, e.g. marketing agencies that participated in the survey. The result showed that the reduction in working hours did not negatively affect productivity. On the contrary, it rose on average by 1.4 percent in the period. At the same time, it gave the employees less stress, fewer sick days and fewer resignations.

Among Danish companies that follow models is the Copenhagen-based IT company IIH Nordic, which introduced models in 2017. According to director Henrik Stenmann, since then they have had happier employees and have found it easier to attract and retain highly specialized labor.

Researchers also point out that the 4-day working week can have a positive impact on the environment because employees spend less time commuting back and forth, thereby reducing CO2 emissions. However, it is important to emphasize that not all industries can benefit from models. It is carried out by the individual company and institution and their specific work processes. For example, it is difficult to imagine that models are suitable for the care, health and medical sector, because by reducing their working week, you will not be able to treat the necessary number of patients.

Loud quitting

Another and more recent trend in the labor market is “loud quitting”. This type of resignation differs from the traditional and more calm one, which happens with good notice. Instead, loud quitting means that the employee leaves his job abruptly and in a dramatic way. The employee creates awareness about their resignation and dissatisfaction with the job, e.g. on social media or by confronting their employers in public. The trend is rooted in the current debate about work/life balance. For many “loud quitters”, the loud resignation is about making the public aware of some inappropriate working conditions with the purpose of changing the norms and culture surrounding the pressured and competitive working life. In our blog post here, you can read more about the consequences of the phenomenon for both the employee and the company.

Quiet quitting and #lazygirljob

Another current trend is “Quiet Quitting”, which refers to a more subdued form of protest against work. This is not a concrete dismissal – rather a quiet rebellion against the overriding work identity, and a movement towards a work effort where you “only” provide what is absolutely necessary. Often as an attempt to stand firm that you have a life outside of work. The employee becomes less committed to work. As a variation of this phenomenon, the #Iazygirljob has emerged. It refers to more and more Gen Z’s choosing a job that requires minimal effort, but where they get a good salary and where there is great flexibility and thus a good opportunity to maintain a balance between work and private life. They refuse to take a job that requires them to sacrifice their quality of life.

Both quiet quitting and #lazygirljob can lower productivity in the workplace, because disengaged employees are often less creative and less motivated. In order to meet the trends and prevent them from happening, the employer should contribute to creating a positive workplace that offers opportunities for personal and professional development, good management, and an appropriate workload. At the same time, as an employee, you should look for opportunities for development, offer open communication with your manager about career goals and working conditions, as well as reflect yourself on what the lack of motivation is due to and how it can be found again. You can read more about quiet quitting in our blog post here.

Danes’ working hours are lower than average

The Danes are among the people in the world who work the fewest hours a year. Figures from the OECD show that in 2021an average Dane worked 1,360 hours in a year. According to the statistics, only the Germans worked fewer hours than the Danes.

Part of the explanation for the Danes’ relatively modest working hours is that we are wealthy as a society. Generally speaking, the countries where people work the most are also among the poorest. According to a labor market researcher in an article from Tv2, richer people want to use some of that wealth to have some more freedom. This rises the question as to whether we as a society can afford to work less than other countries?

Can we as a society afford to reduce working hours?

Whether society can afford for people to work less is an obvious question to ask. One of the central questions is whether reduced working hours will result in reduced productivity? As mentioned, studies, including the study from Cambridge University, indicate that employee productivity increases by reducing the working week by 20%, while also reducing stress and sick days. This can lead to less pressure on the healthcare system. At the same time, shorter working weeks can have a positive impact on the environment in the form of lower CO2 and energy consumption.

However, if employees reduce their commitment and initiative through quiet or loud quitting because they feel pressured and want better working conditions, this can have a negative impact on both the company’s economic growth, culture and reputation. An potentially conflict and controversy can arise between the employee and the company, which can have negative consequences for the employee’s career.

There are thus both advantages and disadvantages of reducing working hours, but everything indicates that if the employer is the active decision-maker in reducing working hours, then it can have a positive effect for both the company, the employees and society.

Sources:, Study from Cambridge University,,, OECD.stat

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