Scotland plans to launch a trial four-day workweek. The decision was the culmination of a campaign promise made by the ruling Scottish National Party. Workers will have their hours reduced by 20%, but won’t suffer any loss in compensation. The program will be funded by the SNP with a £10 million fund ($13.8 million U.S.). The monies will be used to experiment with the abbreviated workweek.
The government points to a recent poll in Scotland that showed 80% of the people responding to the idea were highly positive of the initiative. The respondents said the program would greatly enhance their health and happiness. They also point to positive results in other countries including Iceland, New Zealand and Japan.
Some Scottish businesses have already started their own truncated workweeks. Glasgow-based UPAC Group recently said it's employees will enjoy a four-day week with the same salary after running a successful pilot program. Edinburgh-based Orocco similarly elected to implement a three-day weekend with the support of their employees.
A number of other companies and countries have experimented with this type of work model. Spain had announced that it would run a trial four-day workweek. The Spanish government agreed to a 32-hour workweek over three years without cutting workers’ compensation. The pilot program, similar to what Scotland is doing, intends to reduce employers’ risk by having the government make up the difference in salary when workers switch to a four-day schedule.
Japan is following Spain’s lead. The country is considering implementing a four-day work week. The government of Japan is leading the charge. It's somewhat surprising given Japan’s hustle-porn work culture, as bad or worse than America’s propensity to work incredibly long hours with little or no vacation time. The strenuously long hours that salarymen put in, led to death by overwork. It's so commonplace that Japan has a term for it, karōshi.
Leading up to this, Microsoft Japan previously tried a shorter workweek program, called “Work-Life Choice Challenge 2019 Summer.” The company gave its 2,300 employees the opportunity to “choose a variety of flexible work styles, according to the circumstances of work and life.” The goal of management was to see if there would be a corresponding increase in productivity and morale when hours are cut down. The results of the experiment were extremely positive, indicative that workers were both happier and 40% more productive.
Unilever, a British multinational consumer goods company, headquartered in London, previously embarked upon a test of the four-day workweek. The food and consumer-staples giant chose New Zealand as the test-case location. This study is the natural progression of experimenting with different types of work and life accommodations at the company. The employees will be compensated for a full five days, although they’re only working for four. Nick Bangs, the managing director of Unilever in New Zealand, said, "We hope the trial will result in Unilever being the first global company to embrace ways of working that provide tangible benefits for staff and for business."
Scotland pointed to Iceland and it's strong results as a big reason for taking a chance with the four-day workweek. A recent study of 2,500 workers in Iceland, more than 1% of the workforce, was conducted to see if shortened work days leads to more productivity and a happier workforce. The trials were made across an array of different types of workplaces.
Between 2015-2019, Iceland conducted test cases of a 35-36 hours workweek without any calls for a commensurate cut in pay. To ensure quality control, the results were analysed by Autonomyand the Association for Sustainability and Democracy. Based upon the steller results, Icelandic trade unions negotiated for a reduction in working hours. The study also led to a significant change in Iceland, nearly 90% of the working population now have reduced hours or other accommodations. Worker stress and burnout lessened. There was an improvement in life-work balance.
Recently, Democratic Congressman Mark Takano introduced legislation that would reduce the standard workweek from 40 hours to 32 hours. Takano said in a press release about his piece of legislation “A shorter workweek would benefit both employers and employees alike.” He pointed to “Pilot programs run by governments and businesses across the globe have shown promising results as productivity climbed and reported better work-life balance, less need to take sick days, heightened morale, and lower childcare expenses because they had more time with their family and children.”
He added that “Shorter workweeks have also been shown to further reduce healthcare premiums for employers, lower operational costs for businesses, and have a positive environmental impact in some of these studies.” Rep. Takano asserts that the workers would benefit from this change as his proposal will allow non-exempt employees to receive overtime compensation for any hours worked over 32-hours.
A shortened work week would go a long way in helping people lead a better balance of life and work. We’ll also likely see pushes for 6-hour workdays, staggered flexible work arrangements, more people choosing remote work options, hybrid models and other programs. Companies will benefit as they’ll have a happier workforce that’s appreciative and motivated. Employees who are treated well will likely work harder which would enhance productivity and profits.