Employer survey

Four-day week ‘a reality’ in 10 years say firms

Firms would need to improve efficiency or boost use of technology (pic: Alex Kotliarskyi)

A third of Scottish organisations (34%) think the four-day week will become a reality within the next ten years.

A majority of Scottish employers believe that a shift to a four-day week without reducing pay would depend on their organisation improving their efficiency and working smarter (63%) or firms boosting their adoption of technology (68%).

These are the key findings of a new report Four Day Week – Scottish employer perspectives of moving to a four-day week by the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development.

The analysis is based on a survey of 2,000 employers – 144 from Scotland – and ONS Labour Force Survey data on people’s working hours.

It is published amid rising interest in the idea of a four-day week due to the launch earlier this year of a major trial in the UK, involving 70 companies who are experimenting with reducing working hours without reducing pay.*

The report also finds:

  • Among UK organisations that have reduced working hours, the main drivers were to increase employee wellbeing (36%), decreased demand for products or services (32%), or to help with recruitment and retention (30%).
  • 16% of UK employers have reduced working hours in the last five years, with 10% reducing hours without cutting pay, although in almost half (47%) of the cases the reduction in hours was due to the furlough scheme
  • The biggest challenges for UK firms that had reduced hours were that new ways of working did not suit everybody in their organisation (32%), they were unable to achieve the same volume of work/outputs as before (30%) and that the task required someone to be present (26%).
  • 30% of Scottish workers say they would like to work fewer hours, but only 12% are willing to take a pay cut to achieve this.
  • The majority of Scottish workers (63.2%) are happy with their working hours.

Marek Zemanik, senior public policy adviser for the CIPD in Scotland, said: “The increase in interest in the four-day working week is understandable. The rationale behind the move is a positive one – to give people more leisure time and improve their wellbeing while increasing their productivity to compensate.

“The current trials, as well as the future trials planned by the Scottish Government, are a welcome attempt to plug the evidence gap, help provide insights for other employers that would like to make the shift to the four-day week and make a stronger case for the benefits.

“Some businesses will find such a move easier than others depending on their size and sector. The major sticking point is the need to increase productivity by 25% to make up for the output lost from fewer days of work. This came through in our findings with a majority of employers saying they would need to work smarter and adopt new technology in order to reduce working hours without cutting pay. 

“There are also challenges as the cost-of-living crisis starts to bite. People in certain industries may very well look to increase their hours to boost their income rather than look to reduce their hours even without a loss of pay. 

“Greater flexibility in where, when and how we work has the potential to have an overall positive impact on working lives across many sectors.

“Businesses should continue to listen to their workforce, look at the evidence and consider how they can pilot new ways of working and achieve the win-win for staff of working fewer hours without losing pay.”

The Scottish Government is planning to launch its own series of trials in early 2023.

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