The SCSN Board recently approved a six month trial of a four day working week for our staff team. There’s been a lot of momentum gaining around this idea, with successful pilots having been trialled in other countries, and Scottish Government backing the idea as a way of improving work/life balance of employees – without losing productivity.
In this blog series, our National Development Manager Dave Shea, looks at how this will work for SCSN and why we’re doing it.
We’re piloting a four-day week, or three-day weekend, beginning October 2021. Our team will be working Monday – Thursday, a day less each week. There will be no reduction in pay, leave or conditions for full-time or part-time staff. Daily working hours will remain the same. The case for change is compelling. Recent articles in The Atlantic, Forbes and TED join the growing – and overwhelmingly positive – global conversation, advocating for four-day working. In September, the BBC reported Scotland’s plans for adopting four-day working, and IPPR Scotland shared findings in support of a four-day week, including “80% [of Scots] believe a four-day week would have a positive effect of their wellbeing” and “65% [of Scots] believe that it would have a positive impact on Scotland’s economy”.
The benefits are well documented but we want to test the gains ourselves. Specifically, whether four-day working really does improve mental and physical health, increase meaningful time spent with friends and loved ones, help reduce carbon emissions, encourage home community engagement, and reduce the emotional labour of some types of work, all while sustaining existing standards of service. But there are risks too, of overworking in the days we do work; or secretly working on the days we don’t; or struggling and stressing if the volume of work is unsustainable in the time available; or output and performance falls.
We met as a team to discuss the practicalities, and examine all the possibilities. The conversation was open and honest. Everyone had a voice. We took time to consider equity and fairness, personal and organisational responsibility, and our collective duty to report accurately – the good and bad – for ourselves, our partners and others who might follow us. We decided to target Fridays, in order to keep our days of work uniform for staff and partners; to naturally extend the weekend from two days to three; and to provide a template for other employers, that’s consistent and easy to duplicate. From there, we co-created a new ‘How We Will Work’ document, detailing the terms and spirit of our new working week. And we created a staff survey – already begun and regularly completed to help evidence baselines – to track and measure how we each feel about work, health, happiness and life-balance. Finally, we sought approval from the SCSN board of directors. As a team, we’ll check-in periodically, throughout the trial, to talk explicitly to the four-day week and how we’re each doing during the pilot.
Everyone’s personal circumstances are different. We all have our own stories and responsibilities. I’m married with two young children. I have family dispersed across Scotland. My hope is – by changing the way I work – I’ll see friends and spend more quality time with family, my sons Hamish (4 years) and Euan (4 months), my wife Shona. I’d like to look after my body and mind a bit better too. The people closest to me will feel the benefits, directly and indirectly. I don’t want to pretend an extra day will transform my life – perhaps it will – but I’m certain, more time for the things that matter most can only be a good thing. I look forward to sharing how my life is affected.
At work, my expectations are optimistic. SCSN is a small but capable team of sincere, talented, motivated folk. The working culture is already progressive, highly flexible and human-centred. The four-day week will move us further towards principles of trust, responsibility and compassionate working. I don’t believe our output will decrease. I’m fascinated and excited to see how four-day working might heighten our engagement with each other as a team, and help generate more ideas and dialogue with our partners. And as lofty as it may be, I’m hopeful we can help influence other employers to consider a four-day week, and do our bit to help move Scotland – the world! – towards a wellbeing economy. I’m keen to see what happens next.
This piece is the first of three updates on our four-day week. We’ll publish another mid-pilot and a final one, towards the end of the trial.