Four day-week can reduce staff absence and turnover, report finds

Introducing a four-day working week can reduce staff absence and turnover while increasing productivity and the quality of applicants, a new report from Advice Direct Scotland has found. 

Four day-week can reduce staff absence and turnover, report finds

Andrew Bartlett

The analysis by Advice Direct Scotland concluded that business-related improvements at the organisation are a “direct result of increases in employee wellbeing”.

The Glasgow-based charity introduced a four-day working week for its own staff in late 2018, with workers receiving the same pay for a day less each week.

The model does not mean giving everyone the same day off, ensuring a five-day service is still delivered by adjusting schedules.

Advice Direct Scotland was one of the first Scottish employers to introduce the initiative, and to mark the three-year anniversary it analysed several performance indicators for a new report.

This found a 71% fall in employee absences since 2017, while the average number of absent days fell by 55%. The rate of workers leaving the organisation dropped by around a third, while a high standard of applicants over the period was recorded - with surveys showing that a better work-life balance was a ‘decisive factor’ in their decision to apply.

Staff were tasked with keeping a record of their own and their team’s productivity as Advice Direct Scotland implemented the new model, and all departments reported a substantial increase in output.

Dozens of companies have moved to a four-day working week in several sectors in recent months, with trials taking place across the UK. The Scottish Government has launched a £10 million fund for pilots and is committed to developing a comprehensive design over the next year.

The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) backs the idea and think-tank IPPR Scotland conducted research which found that eight out of 10 Scots would support the introduction of a four-day working week.

Andrew Bartlett, chief executive of Advice Direct Scotland, said: “More workers and employers are recognising the importance of positive wellbeing, and a four-day week is a fantastic way to achieve this.

“Following consultation and feedback processes, nearly all of our staff have reported experiencing both a reduction in their work-related stress and a marked increase in their enjoyment of work-related activities.

“Crucially, employees are not the only beneficiaries of the four-day week. Employers stand to gain significantly from the implementation of the shorter week given the clear evidence of increased employee productivity.

“Since introducing our new model in 2018, the four-day working week has cultivated a host of impressive business improvements and growth across our organisation. Implementing the four-day working week has been a wise investment for our organisation; not only for improving the well-being of employees, but for maximising our professional output and strengthening the organisation as a direct consequence.”

STUC general secretary Roz Foyer added: “As we emerge from the pandemic, we have to prioritise the wellbeing and protection of workers. It’s not good enough to return to outdated methods of work when technology and decent employment practices has shown a different work/life dynamic.

“This is an evidence-led, inclusive policy that, if implemented correctly with no loss of pay or conditions, can benefit both workers and employers.

“We support the Scottish Government’s approach to pilot the project and would strongly encourage them to seek buy-in from a range of sectors, ensuring as many people as possible benefit from increased productivity, greater leisure and a fairer redistribution of worker labour.”

Joe Ryle, director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, said: “The four-day week with no loss of pay is a win-win scenario for workers and employers.

“Covid has given us the opportunity to move away from the redundant and outdated 9-5, five-day working week. The time has come for businesses to embrace the four-day week as a strategy for retaining staff and attracting new talent.”

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