Four-day work weeks? Here's what Scottish firms think
Updated: Jul 24, 2018
By Victoria Masterson
09:58, 24 JUL 2018
Scottish Business Insider magazine www.insider.co.uk
Study in New Zealand reported 'unmitigated success' of four-day working week trial
What if four-day weeks were the norm?
This week a company in New Zealand said its landmark trial of a four-day working week had been an 'unmitigated success.'
Insider spoke to some employers in Scotland to find out whether a four-day working week might be coming to a workplace near you soon...
Scottish tech company Administrate has operated on a four-day, 32 hour work week since May 2015.
A big inspiration for Canadian founder John Peebles was his time growing up in China, which switched from a six-day to a five-day working week in 1995 with no loss of productivity.
"We found productivity to be unchanged - if not slightly improved - after implementing the four day work week," Peebles said. "Our goal is to build a company that brings success to our customers, team, and investors, and we believe that sustainable work habits are a key piece of that, hence the desire to make sure that our team has balance between work and the rest of their life. We still work incredibly hard - and smart - but only for 32 hours!"
Administrate employs almost 70 staff, including 45 in Edinburgh and about a dozen each in Beirut, Lebanon and Bozeman, Montana. It provides subscription software that helps training providers manage and automate their service.READ MORE
At Aberdeen-based weight loss business Scottish Slimmers, chief executive Amanda Boyle said flexible working was recognised as good for business and good for people, "whether it’s a four day week or nine day fortnight, or simply responding to patterns of family life."
“In our business, 70 per cent of our staff work part-time and everyone has the opportunity to work the hours or days that provide balance," Boyle said.
“My approach has always been to make it easy for the best people to work for the company, and sometimes that’s as simple as flexibility of working hours.”
Fraser McLean, industrial director at recruitment firm Primestaff , felt a four-day working week would bring pros and cons.
"On the plus side, it could prove a powerful motivational tool for employers who could offer staff an additional day off," he said. "For employees, it may help with the work/life balance and allow them to spend more time with their families. There will also be benefits to the environment with workers commuting one day fewer.
"On the flip side, however, it would likely require staff to work longer days to ensure they meet their contractual requirements and maintain salary levels. That could affect productivity, with workers needing more breaks and getting increasingly tired."
There would also be additional organisational demands on employers, with many workers likely to request a Friday or Monday off to extend their weekend," McLean added.
"Rotas would need to be juggled to ensure customers aren’t the ones to suffer," he said. "So a four-day working week, while appealing on the surface, would likely also throw up many logistical problems.”READ MORE
Law at Work
Employment law, human resources and health & safety specialists, Law At Work said a growing number of organisations were exploring ways to boost employee engagement and retention.
“The flexibility offered by a four-day week ticks a lot of boxes," said Law at Work employment solicitor Heather Maclean.
"Working patterns need to meet the needs of the business as well as staff members’ needs, but employers should be careful not to dismiss a request out of hand or they risk breaching statutory flexible working rules."
Most employees with more than 26 weeks’ service have the statutory right to ask for flexible working, regardless of the reason for the request, Maclean said.
"An employer can reject a request on specific grounds, but must ensure that it is dealt with - including dealing with an appeal - within three months,” she said.
The New Zealand trial was carried out by financial services company Perpetual Guardian over two months with 240 staff, who worked four, eight-hour days but got paid for five.
Academics at Auckland University of Technology, who assessed the results, found job and life satisfaction increased on all levels across the home and work front, with employees performing better in their jobs and enjoying them more than before the experiment.
“From my experience working with employers, and indeed employees, there is rarely a one size fits all situation," said David Hoey, a partner at law firm BTO.
"Some businesses, like ours, require support during the working week, and often beyond, and reducing the working week would cause significant operational issues given client demands etc. Nevertheless providing flexibility and agile working in a way that works for customers, staff and the business is a good way forward.”