Are we moving towards the four-day working week?
- Date: Wednesday 21st April 2021
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At the time of writing this e-bulletin, Nicola Sturgeon had just announced the introduction of a four-day working week pilot in her SNP manifesto. However, the party added that this would only happen if Scotland were granted full control over employment rights from Westminster.
Under the new rules, the government would support a greater work-life balance by enabling individuals to work 32 hours across four days with no reduction in pay. In theory, this should lead to more jobs opening up and higher levels of motivation and engagement.
However, critics ask who will finance the changes and predict a drop in earnings for the working class, which could ultimately lead to recession.
All eyes are currently on Spain, who announced that trialling the concept of the four-day week will hopefully show that working longer hours doesn’t necessarily boost productivity. The change comes at a cost for the underperforming country, but the government hopes that investing €50 million into the kick-starter project will lead to positive results.
When Microsoft in Japan introduced the four-day week, productivity reportedly shot up by 40% and a number of UK businesses have already adopted the same approach.
Employers may also decide to opt for a six hour-day change trialled by Sweden a while ago. The new way of working did result in higher levels of work satisfaction, less fatigue and lower stress levels amongst the workforce.
However, the experiment was abandoned when costs spiralled out of control and had a detrimental impact on organisations.
Will we move towards working less hours but being more efficient?
The situation is complex. Arguably, many jobs are intrinsically linked to working times, such as customer service roles. Covering less hours in call centres could lead to drops in customer service levels because most employers would not be able to simply employ more people to cover the missing hours.
Building sites are unlikely to shut down for an additional day, when project schedules are already tight, and changes would directly impact any competitive advantage.
Critics call the idea a four-day week with one day of weekend working, and they may not be wrong.
It remains to be seen if the proposal catches on. For now, the UK government has announced that there are no plans to consider the changes in England.
Source: Manuela Grossmann