Four-day working week is '˜the way ahead'

A major advice centre in Scotland has introduced a four-day working week for its staff to increase productivity and reduce absenteeism.

A major advice centre in Scotland has introduced a four-day working week for its staff to increase productivity and reduce absenteeism. Picture: TSPL

Advice Direct Scotland, (ADS) a charity which operates customer contact centres in Glasgow and Stornoway, has overhauled its business to ensure all 68 members of staff will receive the same wages as they previously earned, while working fewer hours.

Any shortfall in hours worked is financed by Social Enterprise Direct, (SED) the charity’s social enterprise trading arm.

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The move coincides with the call this week from the Trades Union Congress in Manchester for people to work fewer hours.

Currently around 1.4 million people are estimated to be working seven days a week.

David Rutherford, quality and compliance manager at ADS, which is recognised by the union Unison, said the new working pattern would allow staff to achieve a better work-life balance.

“This is a major first step by a large and growing organisation to introduce a four-day working week, and everyone is very confident it will increase productivity and reduce absenteeism.

“Advice Direct Scotland is a modern consumer-facing employer, and we want all workers to be positive about their job and look forward to coming to work. Too many people across Scotland and the UK are working excessively long hours, and that’s not good for society.”

Mr Rutherford added: “The four-day working week has given staff more time to do what they love. I used my extra day off to take my six-month-old son swimming and go to one of his dentist appointments for the first time.

“Everyone in the office is sharing stories about what they did on their day off. It’s created a really positive atmosphere, and everyone loves the better work-life balance.”

Grahame Smith, general secretary of the Scottish Trade Union Congress, said that changes to the traditional five-day working week had already been successfully implemented in a number of workplaces in Scotland including Rosyth naval engineering dockyard and BAE Systems in Glasgow.

“We all need to have a different kind of conversation about what happens in the workplace. Some of the challenges we are facing – such as artificial intelligence and automation – are ones we’ve not had before.

“Moving to shortening working time may seem impractical but academic research shows it actually enhances the workplace environment and increases productivity.”

Jane Anderson, Unison branch secretary for Lothian health branch, said she “totally supported” the initiative taken by ADS.

“We have to remember that the vast majority of people already give over 150 per cent to their jobs over five days.

“If this can be reduced to four days instead of five it gives people time to have a rest, carry out the admin tasks of their lives and get back to themselves meaning they return to work refreshed.”

Ms Anderson added: “People can be reluctant to take time back, depending on which sector they work in.”

SED provides a number of commercial contracts, from which the profit provides support to cash-strapped families, individuals and communities. The organisation is also an accredited SQA training centre.