One of the country’s largest trade unions has urged the Scottish Government to “lead the way” with the introduction of a four-day working week.
PCS union called for the introduction of new working practices to show that the future “can be better” for workers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The calls follow the publication of a new poll which showed overwhelming support for the move among government workers.
Research conducted by Autonomy found that nearly nine-in-ten (87%) government employees supported the introduction of a four-day working week, with 84% stating they could “adapt their work processes” to accommodate the change.
Just 4% of opposed the move to a four-day week, the report noted.
According to the study, the introduction of a four-day working week would deliver “clear, perceived benefits for the employer”.
Benefits highlighted by the report include increased staff retention and a healthier, happier workforce.
Notably, the report suggests the Scottish Government has an opportunity to be viewed as a “pioneer” by setting new working standards for the national economy.
PCS National Officer Cat Boyd said the coronavirus pandemic has shown that organisations are capable of working in ways that weren’t thought possible before.
“Through this project, Scottish Government staff are making it clear that the future can be different, that it can be better for workers, employers, the economy and the environment,” she said.
“The Scottish Government should now lead the way on the four day week by working with PCS to make these possibilities into realities,” Boyd added.
🙋♀️ Improved recruitment & retention of staff
❤️ Healthier workforce
📈 Increased productivity
— PCS Scotland (@PCS_Scotland) July 30, 2021
Autonomy’s research highlighted key factors in support for a shorter working week, which included a lack of free time outside of work.
The “intensification of work” during the coronavirus pandemic as well as the “demands of caring responsibilities placed on time outside of working hours” were also key factors.
More than half (52%) of respondents said they were dissatisfied with the amount of free time they have while 70% revealed they regularly worked over their contracted hours.
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of government employees also feel they have “insufficient time” to carry out caring responsibilities for family members, loved ones or their community.
Will Stronge, Director of Research at Autonomy, said the report shows the four-day week is “an idea whose time has come” and urged the Scottish Government to implement changes.
“This study shows the wide breadth of support there is for a four day week across Scottish Government,” he said.
“The SNP already have a national-level pilot planned, but there is now a strong case for expanding this to include government workers.”
Earlier this year, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged to support companies to implement a four-day working week in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Unveiling the SNP manifesto ahead of the 2021 Holyrood Election, the First Minister pledged funding of up to £10m to support firms across the country and cultivate a healthier “work-life balance” for Scottish workers.
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Recent trails of a four-day week in Iceland were hailed an “overwhelming success” and prompted calls for similar pilot schemes in the UK.
Trials run by Reykjavik City Council and the Icelandic government included more than 2,500 workers, with healthcare, education and public service employees moving from a 40-hour week to 35 or 36 hours.
According to Autonomy’s analysis of the scheme, productivity remained roughly the same or improved across the majority of workplaces involved in the trials.
Notably, employee health and wellbeing “dramatically increased” during the trials, with workers experiencing less stress and work-related burnout.