Scotland Will Soon Begin Trials for Four-Day Work Week

Following Iceland's lead, Scotland will now reduce working hours without docking payments.
Ameya Paleja

As the pandemic wanes and work-life is poised to return, companies and countries are redefining the normal in a bid to offer better work-life balance and also boost productivity. While companies like Facebook have offered employees an option to work from home permanently, others such as Apple are aiming to mix up workdays by allowing employees to work from home on certain days of the week.

At a larger level, countries are looking to reduce working hours per week without cutting pay. Scotland is the newest entrant to this experiment that is not only expected to improve employee well-being but also boost economies due to increased spending from people who are not at work, BBC reported

The Scottish government's initiative is also part of their election promise to conduct at least one trial at a reduced work-week to improve employee well-being and productivity. It also comes close to the heels of the worker shortage that is plaguing countries in Europe and in the US. Fast-food chains are encouraging applications from 14-year-olds in the US while the truck drivers in Europe receive 25 percent hikes to return to their jobs. 

The biggest hurdle in employing such schemes is adjusting the remuneration for the work done. Some companies have increased daily working hours to ensure that even under a four-day workweek the number of hours worked remains the same. Such an arrangement is unlikely to work for parents or those caring for elders.

Iceland's experiment which included 2,500 workers was conducted over four years and it allowed employees to take four hours (~10 percent) off their workweek. Their pay remained the same, so did their productivity if it did not improve. 

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Scotland is expected to take off 20 percent of the work time per week without affecting employee output. The time taken off will be redirected at tasks with measurable outcomes such as training, caring work, or volunteering. Alternatively, the time could also be bundled as additional time off work, more national holidays, or annual leave, BBC reported. A similar experiment in New Zealand has yielded productivity improvements as well work-life balance for employees. 

Although these social experiments are meant to boost productivity and value the personal lives of employees and their needs, they are also being used for social engineering and rebooting cultures. Earlier this year, Japan unveiled its plans for four-day workweeks to reduce karoshi, death by overwork, rampant in the country. The Spanish government also initiated its project to reduce workdays to dissociate working hours from productivity, The Guardian reported. 

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