Sharon McDougall: What does the four day work week trial mean for the Scottish workforce?

Sharon McDougall: What does the four day work week trial mean for the Scottish workforce?

Sharon McDougall

Sharon McDougall, a personal debt expert at Scotland Debt Solutions, shares what the future has in store for Scottish workers as the four day week pilot programme commences.

As more businesses around the UK offer flexibility in the way employees structure their work week, such as when and where they work, the stakes are high for businesses with little to offer in the way of flexible working options. The pandemic initiated the transition to working from home on an unprecedented scale which eased many employers into the decision to implement permanent working from home post-Covid-19.

As this creates a shift in employee expectations, it also re-establishes the job criteria for recruiters as more candidates search for flexible working jobs. While workplaces respond to the changing needs of their staff, what does the four day work week pilot mean for the future of work?

What is the four day week pilot programme?

The four day week pilot that is currently underway trials a shorter working week at no loss in pay for employees. The programme is organised by 4 day week global, alongside the University of Oxford and Cambridge and follows suit to similar pilot programmes in progress in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

Research conducted by 4 day week global found that a shorter working week can reap a host of benefits that include:

  • Improve productivity
  • Boost mental health
  • Reduce employee burnout
  • Present opportunities to both the employer and employee to drive down C02 emissions because of fewer commutes to the workplace
  • Help gender equality as mothers can work less for no loss in pay which gives them a better chance to balance parenthood
  • Avoid health issues as employees can strike a better work life balance

In response to why employers should be paid for less time, the pilot programme answers:

“Put another way, while employees will be working less hours, added rest and focus means that they can achieve the same goals.

“As such, research shows that companies benefit from higher productivity and higher returns when their workers continue to be compensated at their standard pay.”

Over six Scottish companies are part of the pilot, which includes Advice Direct Scotland and LUX, and around another 40 companies UK-wide.

How are Scottish businesses responding to the four day week trial?

Scottish thinktank, IPPR (the Institute for Public Policy Research), are supporters of a four day work week as their survey finds high levels of public support for a shorter work week.

Two-thirds of respondents think a shorter work week with no loss of pay would have a positive effect on workplace productivity, whereas 62 per cent perceive a positive impact on economic output overall.

The four day work week pilot, along with support from IPPR and policymakers can help shape a future where work life flexibility is fairly ranked alongside pay, career development and role progression.

As the four day pilot comes to an end in late 2022, this will likely warm employers to the idea of a shorter working week and pave the road to a future where the working lives of Scots are shaped by flexibility.

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