The work week went from six to five days nearly 100 years ago.
Several countries have tested the four-day regimen successfully over the past six years, and now Scotland is trying it.
Will the UK offer a four-day working week?
The four-day workweek is tested in the UK – employees get the same pay for working eight hours less.
Pilots are being fired across Scotland after the massive change in the way Britons operate during the Covid pandemic.
It is unclear if England, Wales and Northern Ireland will also test it, but activists are urging the government to try it.
Many noted the “wow” of the largest-ever four-day workweek experiment held in Iceland from 2015 to 2019.
Workers were found to be less stressed and have a better work-life balance, while employers did not see a sharp decline in productivity or service delivery, according to an analysis.
The experiment was initially for a few dozen public sector workers who were members of trade unions.
But it extended to 2,500 workers in the public and private sectors – representing 1% of the country’s workforce – as the lawsuit progressed.
Participants in the experiment included police, health care workers, teachers, vendors and city workers.
The victory of the experiment, along with similar pilots in New Zealand and Spain, prompted people to press on him in Britain.
A study showing that offering a four-day work week could boost store sales by up to £58m also helped bolster their cause.
Research has found that allowing people to have an extra day on the weekends not only gives people more time for shopping, but may also increase spending on hobbies, gardening, and crafts.
However, in June, the government dismissed suggestions that Britons could benefit from reduced working hours as the “new normal” after the pandemic.
What happens in Scotland for a four day work week trial?
Pilot projects are being implemented following changes in work practices brought about by the pandemic that has seen millions of people working from home and juggling their responsibilities.
The Scottish National Party has pledged £10m of funding to companies testing four days a week.
The reduced hours do not necessarily have to be taken every week, and instead translate to a few hours a day or accumulate over a month.
Several companies have already switched to the four-day workweek, including Glasgow-based packaging company UPAC and Edinburgh-based building contractors Orocco.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘The pandemic has led to increased interest and support for more flexible working practices, which could include a shift to a four-day work week.
Cuts in the workweek can help maintain more and better jobs and improve well-being.
“We are in the early stages of designing a £10m pilot project to help companies explore the benefits and costs of moving to a four-day work week.
“The pilot will give us a better understanding of the implications of a broader shift toward a shorter work week across the economy.”
More than eight in ten Scots support the introduction, saying that reducing the number of days they work – without a loss in wages – will have a “positive effect on their well-being”.
And 88% are said to be willing to take part in testing programs set up by ministers in Holyrood, according to research by IPPR Research Scotland.
But IPPR Scotland said the government needed to expand the trials to more sectors of the economy, people working in non-managerial jobs, those working shifts and part-time employees.
Rose Foyer, general secretary of the Scottish Trade Union Congress, said: “Moving workers to four days a week, without loss of wages, would bring a wide range of benefits.
“If Scotland is serious about creating a healthy economy, four days a week is an important way forward.”
What countries have a four-day working week?
The four-day workweek, or compressed work schedule, has been tested in many countries, with some offering it permanently.
But no country has fully introduced it as a standard.
As a result of the successful experience, about 85 per cent of workers in Iceland will be able to work four days instead of five at the same wage level.
It can also be said that Finland has moved closer, having adopted the Charter of Working Hours in 1996.
It was passed so that workers have the right to start or finish three hours earlier.
Finland’s prime minister revealed last year his intention to introduce four days a week with six hours a day.
Sanna Marin, who became the world’s youngest prime minister at 34, said a flexible setup could be the “next step” toward a modern, healthy life.
Elsewhere, public officials benefited from a four-day work week in The Gambia in 2013.
Business hours were limited from 8am to 6pm Monday through Thursday, as Friday was a day of rest for prayer and planting.
However, President Adama Barrow dropped the program, opting for a Friday half-day work instead.
New Zealand property planning firm Perpetual Guardian adopted a four-day work week in 2018 after a successful trial.
Staff at Unilever’s New Zealand office are participating in a major trial through the end of 2021.
Microsoft employees in Japan benefited from a three-day weekend experience in 2019, which yielded 40% productivity gains and 23% electricity savings.
In Spain, the government agreed to introduce a 32-hour work week for three years without reducing workers’ wages.
A few businesses have switched to reduced working hours in the UK since 2018, including the Simply Business call center and Aizle restaurant in Edinburgh, but nothing has been officially rolled out by the government.
Britain’s Labor Party has adopted the 32-hour full-time work week as official party policy and has pledged to take the country there by 2029 if it wins the 2019 general election.
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