Scotland has announced that it will trial a four-day workweek with no reduction of pay.
As remote work has reshaped the way we work, following the coronavirus outbreak, this unprecedented shift also provides the chance for organizations to try something that has been mostly theoretical: the four-day working week. This decision has been a part of the Scottish National Party’s campaign promise.
How will it work?
Employees will have their hours reduced by 20%, but this will not impact their wages. The SNP have funded US$13.8mn to support the trial of the shorter workweek.
Iceland has been the case study influencing Scotland’s decision. Iceland recently conducted a study of 2,500 workers from 2015 to 2019 and ran a test case for a 35-36 hour workweek without any pay cuts. Following the overwhelmingly positive results, Icelandic trade unions negotiated for a reduction in working hours. Today, nearly 90% of the working population now works on reduced hours.
“This study shows that the world’s largest-ever trial of a shorter working week in the public sector was by all measures an overwhelming success. It shows that the public sector is ripe for being a pioneer of shorter working weeks—and lessons can be learned for other governments,” said Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy.
Cons of a four day week
Though employees may benefit from the four-day working week, customers may be less pleased that they cannot access an organization’s services on an additional set day.
Marc Effron at TalentQ thinks that a 4-day workweek is symptomatic of bad management. “[This] suggests the firms were badly managed if their operations were so sloppy that a few common-sense changes led to radical improvements in efficiency,” he said.
A fleeting management style
Effron also points out that an organization’s competitor may not adopt a four-day working model to maintain its competitive advantage. You can only compete if you’re on the field, and your 4-day workweek leaves that field empty for your competitors to run up the score with abandon on day five,” he says.
Pros of a four day week
A recent report from Sanford University found that there is a correlation between working hours and productivity. It found that overworked employees were often more unproductive than employees working a normal workweek. A further study from Stanford University found that productivity plummets after working 50 hours a week.
Fostering equality and diversity
According to research on the Gender Pay Fap from the Government Equalities Office, two million British people are out of employment due to childcare responsibilities, 89% of which are women. Condensing a working week into four days stands to provide more opportunities for parents to either spend time with their families or enter the workplace.
Increased employee satisfaction
If employees are better rested and have an improved work/life balance, then an employee is less likely to take a sick day. A 2019 study from Oxford found that that workers are 13% more productive when they’re happy.
There is a correlation found between countries that have shorter working hours and a country’s carbon footprint. Countries with shorter working weeks had lower carbon footprints. This is largely attributed to the decrease in commuting and the energy saved from not building power for an additional day. A report commissioned by the 4 Day Week campaign from Platform London also suggested that shorter hours could cut the UK’s carbon footprint.
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Several countries have started looking into the four-day workweek. For example, Spain will run a trial of a shorter workweek. Employees in the region will work 32 hours across four days, with no loss of pay. Japan is also following closely behind, as it is considering implementing the four-day workweek model to combat the culture of overworking or karōshi, as it is termed, allowing a greater work-life balance that may hope to address the low birth rate in Japan.