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Scotland set to trial four day week

How will this affect the profession?

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Scotland is set to trial a four day working week, reducing hours by 20% without hitting productivity, measured in output per week, so that pay can remain the same.

With around 80% of employees saying they'd prefer this way of working, the campaign hopes to positively impact wellbeing and create a better work/life balance while simultaneously allowing for greater output and productivity.

What are your thoughts on the four day working week? Do you think it is a surefire way to boost morale and productivity within the team? Or do you think the risk of less work and time to service clients outweighs the benefits on staff wellbeing? To any Scottish accountants within the community, are you planning on implementing this work strategy within your practice?

Feel free to let us know in the comments.

Replies (55)

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By Paul Crowley
03rd Sep 2021 15:12

It is a joke
Are Scottish pubs complying?
Are shops complying?
Is tourism complying?
How has Scotland managed to discover the same work in less hours thing that no other country has yet discovered

Still if I was an employee and did not worry about the post Covid economy I would relax in the bliss of a three day weekend and expect the rest of the UK to bail the country out yet again
I sure as eggs is eggs would not want Scotland independant unless the EU set up a rescue fund

So if politicians work 5 days a week they deserve a 25% increase?

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Replying to Paul Crowley:
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By David Ex
03rd Sep 2021 15:10

Paul Crowley wrote:

So if politicians work 5 days a week they desrve a 25% increase?

That’s a big IF!! Are they back from their summer break yet? Nearly time for Christmas recess.

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By 1 2
03rd Sep 2021 14:54

I don't think there's a problem with getting most work done in 4 days. Efficiencies/improving software or more staff can solve that.

Where I'm less sure is client expectations for responses. Society expects office workers to do Mon-Fri, 9-5. Would the 4 day week involve everyone having (say) Friday off, so any queries from Thursday evening would have to wait until at least Monday morning to get a response? Clients may not be best pleased with the long delay. Or would each staff member work a different 4 days, so someone is working for all 5 normal office days. That may work better, but still some clients may get annoyed that their normal accounting contact isn't in. Of course you could say "tough [***]" to those clients, but then they may move to the firm that still works 5 days/week.

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Replying to Maslins:
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By Mr_awol
03rd Sep 2021 15:19

Chris Maslin wrote:

I don't think there's a problem with getting most work done in 4 days. Efficiencies/improving software or more staff can solve that.

I'm not convinced it works for accoutnancy, let alone other sectors.

Firms can only become more efficient if they have the scope to do so - and if they have that why arent they already doing it? In reality, it is more likely to lead to reduction in scope of work where that's possible and extra staff where it isnt. One the client/customer pays for in terms of inferior service and the other, the business owner pays for.

4 day week for 4/5 pay, assuming employees want it, i ahve no problems with. The concept that people get an extra day off at their employer's expense i do.

Overall sounds like another Scottish Government wheeze of obtaining good living/working conditions paid for by someone else - combined with an attempt to buy votes so they can force through independence. At that point, when the Apron Strings must surely be cut, their only chance to make it work would be to try and Welsh on their fair share of national debt, which would be a short term solution even if they manage to get away with it.

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Replying to Mr_awol:
By SteveHa
03rd Sep 2021 15:27

I'm not so sure. Trials all over the place say it leads to increased productivity.

https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&q=four+day+week+product...

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Replying to SteveHa:
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By Paul Crowley
03rd Sep 2021 15:57

How does that work for hospitals and hospitality?
Surely it just means that employees in white collar jobs are doing the equivalent of 4 days work but being paid for five?

Love to be in that position so that I play computer things and ebay at home rather than at work

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Replying to SteveHa:
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By lionofludesch
04th Sep 2021 07:16

SteveHa wrote:

I'm not so sure. Trials all over the place say it leads to increased productivity.

https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&q=four+day+week+product...

Are these trials carried out by folk who just want another day off?

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Replying to lionofludesch:
By SteveHa
04th Sep 2021 19:27

You got me - I carried them all out.

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By SteveHa
03rd Sep 2021 14:56

I'm waiting for Wales to jump on the bandwagon. I could do with an extra lie in each week.

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Replying to SteveHa:
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By Paul Crowley
03rd Sep 2021 15:16

The Welsh do not believe in magic time machines, just dragons.
Sensible people, the Welsh.

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By Hugo Fair
03rd Sep 2021 15:49

As so often with political announcements (especially the SNP), the devil is not so much in the detail as completely missing.
"reducing hours by 20% without hitting productivity" ... but where are the examples of how (that don't simply assume gross inefficiencies as the current norm)?

There are interesting ways in which to shunt the hours around (instead of reducing them) - such as replacing 5 days of 7.5 hours with 4 days of 9.375 hours (particularly if WFH eradicates much of the previous time spent commuting).
And that's where it gets interesting. Obviously there are very different demands on an operation depending on the type of services or products it provides - and to whom.

So as Chris Maslin has commented, there may actually be an expectation by clients of access to the business across an *increased* number of hours.

The real future will mix changes in where employees work - with how (using technology) that provides clients with a personal/seamless experience - whilst being accessible in near 24/7 from anywhere in the world.
Almost the least important aspect will be how many hours/week are 'normal' for an employee - particularly if all that technology leads to a diminution of their input.

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Jason Croke
By Jason Croke
03rd Sep 2021 15:55

18 months ago, the idea of Accountants and call centres working from home was unheard of and then suddenly, everyone is doing it....and the fears of low productivity and sneaking off work didn't really come to pass.

There are plenty of firms already working a 4 day week or variations of that, some firms don't even have annual leave, with staff taking as many days off as they need.....it all feels scary but like with working from home, maybe not as bad as we predict.

I don't think one size fits all, I think individual businesses would need to approach the idea of a 4 day week to fit around their business, a retailer may have shift patterns to ensure 7 days a week cover, whereas an Accounting firm could easily shift to a 4 day a week regime without loss of clients.

There are also firms who already advocate out of office emails that say "I'm on holiday, I will not be replying to you until next week", and you have to be brave, everyone says that the most important resource in any business is its staff so if that is true then removing obstacles to achieve a 4 day week or whatever should be the goal.

18 months ago, Accountants were wearing ties to client meetings, now meetings take place from your spare room and nobody cares about where you are or what you are wearing, I think fear holds us back.

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Replying to Jason Croke:
ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
03rd Sep 2021 15:53

Jason Croke wrote:

...and the fears of low productivity and sneaking off work didn't really come to pass.

I beg to differ. People at my firm, a clients and at least 2 other practices I know have all been sacked for scamming the systems and not working.

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Replying to Jason Croke:
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By Mr_awol
03rd Sep 2021 16:32

Jason Croke wrote:

18 months ago, the idea of Accountants and call centres working from home was unheard of and then suddenly, everyone is doing it....and the fears of low productivity and sneaking off work didn't really come to pass.

Didnt they?

Almost everyone on our staff said they enjoyed the flexibility of working from home and the relaxed way of working. Almost all of them said they were less productive at home. Most, given the choice, would WFH sometimes and come into the office at others, particularly busier times.

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Replying to Mr_awol:
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By AdamMurphy
05th Sep 2021 22:25

When I last worked in an office, no end of time was wasted with people chatting and not working when they were doing that.
At home you just get on with what needs doing, and the quicker it gets done the quicker you knock off.

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Replying to AdamMurphy:
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By DJKL
06th Sep 2021 09:38

Except, of course, re Accounting Web, the virtual home of office chat.

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Replying to AdamMurphy:
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By Mr_awol
06th Sep 2021 10:29

And the washing needs putting out, or the other half asks you to mind the kids for five minutes whilst they get something from the car, or you take a bit longer over breakfast but don't make it up because nobody saw.

Or as you say, the quicker it's done the quicker you knock off - so that job you thought would take all day is done in the morning so you have a half day. Except is it actually done? Or have they missed something in their rush to get down the beach?

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Replying to Jason Croke:
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By creamdelacream
06th Sep 2021 22:07

When we started working from home because of the lockdown the productivity remained the same. However, as many companies who do this for a while report, after about 4 to 5 months productivity starts to slip for many employees. They also become more distant and disconnected from the company. It's so much better now we're all back in the office.
We are an incredibly busy practice and if we dropped a day we'd drop 20% of our output for sure. Plus, as has already been mentioned, the clients would not be happy with only being able to contact their go to contact 4 days in a 7 day week. We have already stopped day release for study for this reason.
Expectations of customers in the digital age are becoming 24/7, not 8/4. I hope this initiative does spread to England so we can scoop up the clients who will find this unacceptable.

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By atleastisoundknowledgable...
03rd Sep 2021 16:02

Same pay for a day's less work - are you sure only 80% of employees want it? The other 20% must be running from something in their home lives, the ole' ball & chain maybe?

Seriously though, the points the BBC article makes some good points:

- an employer who is trialling a reduction in hours while retaining pay levels, is also a company that's likely to be doing the other things that make workers happy and motivated.
- Cutting hours doesn't help managers get better at managing, or that workers find ways to utilise their technology more efficiently.

... but then lets itself down with

BBC wrote:

...survey suggests 65% of workers think a shorter working week would make them more productive.

If I was having to do 5 days work in 4 days, obviously it'd be more productive. What that statistic says to me is that 1/3 of staff will get less work done but expect the same salary.

Then out of knowhere:

[quote=BBC

... one of the ideas put out there by IPPR Scotland: those hours no longer being worked could be used to directed outcomes, of more training ...

[/quote]

So is the proposal that everyone has an informal apprenticeship agreement? "I'll let you have a day-a-week off, but on that day off, you'll need to do CPD/new software training/read AccountingWeb."?!

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ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
03rd Sep 2021 16:07

Read the BBC article especially the bit about what should be done with the extra time off.

As an industry, we already offer this ‘4 day week’ to junior staff. Apprentices have a workload, do it in 80% of their hours and have the other 20% off to do training. Boom. Mic drop.

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By Duggimon
03rd Sep 2021 16:31

The accountancy profession is an excellent profession with which to trial the idea of a 4 day week. There have been numerous studies done where there have been indications that switching to a 4 day week does not necessarily mean a drop in productivity. In the accounting profession, productivity is easily measurable.

We could, for example, raise everyone's charge out rates by 25% and see if they still come in under budget on jobs. If so, and provided there's no jump in non chargeable time, we've eliminated 20% of the working week in a stroke. It would be clear pretty quickly whether the switch works or not.

That said, we're a Scottish firm and I seriously doubt we'll be jumping on the bandwagon, at least for now.

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By DJKL
03rd Sep 2021 17:38

So if you work for the Scottish Government this means you will now do more work.

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By airgeadagam
03rd Sep 2021 17:53

I went to a 4-day week in 1986 and would thoroughly recommend it.

Not many will look back and say they wish they had worked more hours at the office - unless they have a rubbish pension of course.

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Danny Kent
By Viciuno
03rd Sep 2021 17:56

Don't know what I'm missing here - if you can do the same job you are doing now, in 4/5ths the time I'd be questioning your work ethic in the first place. If it is a case of making efficiencies then why are you not already doing that?

I certainly wouldn't be able to do the work I do now in 4 days - at least not to the standard that it aught to be.

Sad reality though is that this will only work for salaried jobs and the rest of the working population, who are largely taken advantage of already, will see no benefit from this what-so-ever. Unless the minimum wage increases to compensate?

Out of principle I have to add that the article suggests that this should be targeted at parents. Why should I, as a childless person, be excluded from an extra free day off every week?

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Replying to Viciuno:
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By David Ex
04th Sep 2021 11:55

Viciuno wrote:

Don't know what I'm missing here - if you can do the same job you are doing now, in 4/5ths the time I'd be questioning your work ethic in the first place. If it is a case of making efficiencies then why are you not already doing that?

That was my thinking. If I have my percentages correct, you need to be 25% more productive in your 4 day week to produce the same as a 5 day week.

I could maybe (just maybe) see a 5-10% productivity improvement being achievable. However, 25% seems a massive stretch if it’s based on no more than reducing from 5 to 4 days.

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Replying to Viciuno:
By SteveHa
04th Sep 2021 19:35

The whole point is that there are inherent inefficiencies in a 5 day working week, owing to fatigue etc. By reducing the working week, you reduce fatigue, and so workers are naturally more efficient.

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Replying to SteveHa:
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By lionofludesch
04th Sep 2021 23:27

Bone idle.

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Replying to SteveHa:
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By creamdelacream
06th Sep 2021 22:15

8 out of 24 hours, 5 days out of 7 plus 28 days off with lunch breaks and possibly other breaks is not going to cause exhaustion. I understand corporates where they expect early starts and overtime and to be constantly on emails, all for no extra pay this would work. BUT if you're actually working a regular working week then it should be a very good balance already (assuming you have a reasonable commute)

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By Hugo Fair
03rd Sep 2021 19:05

Having now read the BBC article, I'm struck by a mathematical inconsistency.

The author says his contract changed so that "Five eight-hour days became four 10-hour days". And then goes on to say that "this campaign .. aims (to) reduce hours by 20% without hitting productivity, measured in output per week."
So ... his new contract of four 10-hour days means he should be 25% more productive than previously (as he's working 2 hours/day more than the campaign requires)!

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Replying to Hugo Fair:
ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
03rd Sep 2021 22:30

I think he gave his situation as a background so we understood that he worked 4 days with a 3 day weekend, not him saying he worked 80%. I don’t remember him passing comment on whether he liked that situation or not, nor it coming up again in the article.

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Replying to atleastisoundknowledgable...:
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By Hugo Fair
03rd Sep 2021 23:05

I'm not attacking the author (so maybe I shouldn't have said 'inconsistency') ... but my point was and remains:
* 'scheme' says you can achieve the same output (aka efficiency) in 4 days/week as you did previously in 5 days/week WITHOUT increasing your daily hours;
* so for example output of A units achieved by working for 32 instead of 40 hours;
* author moves to working a 4-day week, but still for 40 hours in a week;
* since he can, according to the scheme, produce X units in only 32 hours - his new work schedule allows him (logically) to now produce (A*1.25) units per week!

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By Mr_awol
04th Sep 2021 12:48

Of course we are all applying this to our own lives and experiences and ignoring the fact that this is a Scottish trial.

For a trial to be meaningful it needs a decent number of subjects taking it up. Where on earth are they going to find enough Scottish people willing to work as many as four days a week???

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Replying to Mr_awol:
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By DJKL
06th Sep 2021 09:41

The problem with racism is that one can get away with it when you yourself are off the race in question, when you are not it just comes across as petty and mean.

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Replying to Mr_awol:
By JCresswellTax
06th Sep 2021 10:10

I know this is meant is a joke, but it is offensive and borderline racist.

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Replying to JCresswellTax:
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By Mr_awol
07th Sep 2021 17:41

Not really though is it. Offensive or racist, i mean.

The problem with racism is that it's a huge problem which negatively affects the lives of a great man people. Every single day. I'm not sure trivialising their struggles by comparing it to the comment in question is helpful - in fact the irony is that to do so is rather more 'offensive' than any comment about length of the average Scottish working week.

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By Tax Dragon
06th Sep 2021 07:23

I find AdamMurphy's comment on https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/any-answers/disengaging-due-to-seiss-etc of interest in relation to this topic. As indeed I said in that thread.

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Replying to Tax Dragon:
RLI
By lionofludesch
06th Sep 2021 07:39

Tax Dragon wrote:

I find AdamMurphy's comment on https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/any-answers/disengaging-due-to-seiss-etc of interest in relation to this topic. As indeed I said in that thread.

He didn't say he had a day off every week. Nor that he didn't work at weekends. Or long hours.

Speaking for myself, I loved the flexibility that I had in deciding when I worked. If it was raining on a Saturday, I could choose to work and have a sunny day off instead. If I didn't work a 40 hour week, it was more likely that I made enough for my modest needs and wasn't in business to build an empire. I was more interested in having a nice life.

It's a completely different issue.

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Replying to lionofludesch:
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By AdamMurphy
06th Sep 2021 09:58

A bit of both. Judging from when I last worked in an office I guess I work the same amount of hours office workers actually put in. That’s different to what they get paid for!
But yes I’m not bothered about empire building either

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By Tax Dragon
06th Sep 2021 11:34

OP's headline says it's a trial. Trouble with many of the responses is they show minds closed to trying something different.

My view: Suck it and see. Or let Scotland suck it. If result is that productivity rates in Scotland slump while they remain static in England, then England can laugh in its usual superior way. But if productivity in Scotland rockets while England stays stuck where it is, will the southern stick-in-the-muds be willing to reflect on that? Or will they still go on thinking they know best when the science says otherwise?

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Replying to Tax Dragon:
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By creamdelacream
06th Sep 2021 22:21

What a strange thing to say

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Replying to creamdelacream:
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By lionofludesch
06th Sep 2021 22:38

Sounds a plausible scenario to me.

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Replying to creamdelacream:
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By Tax Dragon
07th Sep 2021 00:29

I don't suppose you care to specify which bit of what I said you find strange? (I do say a lot of weird stuff, but very little of it made its way into the comment you remarked on.)

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By SXGuy
07th Sep 2021 07:32

I've worked a 4 day week for about 20 years. I set my own working hours so why not.

Must say I love having a day off middle of the week.

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Replying to SXGuy:
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By Tax Dragon
07th Sep 2021 08:46

And I would rather work for you with that attitude (and therefore would make more effort for you) than work for creamdelacream who seems to want to push me towards a (blatantly unsustainable) 24/7 working model.

The mistake people make is to think that all hard work is equal. If someone is working hard, then they must be working well. Nonsense. If I have time out to think and reflect, my next 24 hours will be much more productive. If I'm working continually and never stopping, sure, I'll still work as hard - that's my work ethic - but the work I do will be far less effective.

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Replying to Tax Dragon:
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By creamdelacream
07th Sep 2021 09:50

I said customer expectations are moving towards 24/7, I didn't say people should work 24/7. With customer expectations being greater this move could be damaging to a practice. I've been in a startup myself and I know if I couldn't contact my accountant on a weekday because 5 days was too much for him then I would have just moved on. Like I say, I hope this happens because it will give us another USP.

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Replying to Tax Dragon:
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By DJKL
07th Sep 2021 16:21

My father pointed out to me on a number of occasions that no professional can "really work" for say eight hours, 3-4 hours of intense analysis and thought is probably the most that should be aimed at during the day and the rest of the day should be the more mundane aspects of the role (In his case legal work but the idea holds good, for instance I have barely thought about writing up books etc in years, I just go into auto pilot mode)

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By Donald MacKenzie
07th Sep 2021 11:48

How will care homes operate with only 80% of their staff in on any one day compared to now?
Will staff feed people faster, push the wheelchairs faster, spend less time talking to residents?
Will productivity on the fish processing plant go up 25% to allow the same output for the same cost of labour?
They would struggle, No and No are the answers.
It is certainly the case that in an office environment people can be motivated to achieve more output in a given time - to a point. Is the level of inefficiency really 25%? Why not a two day week?
I can see that some people would take the option of working harder, or working longer hours per work day to get an extra day off. That, after all ,is what many of us who work for ourselves do. Work as required to get the work done while taking a dog walk break when we feel like it.
A four day week is not practical in jobs such as care homes or production lines - if labour efficiency could increase by 25% there is something wrong with the current management.

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Replying to Donald MacKenzie:
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By Tax Dragon
07th Sep 2021 12:55

I'm sure for the jobs where a 4-day week is not practical, a 4-day week won't be introduced. That's hardly rocket science.

I wonder, on the other hand, whether rocket science might benefit from putting the geniuses onto a 4-day week. It's hardly care home work.

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Replying to Donald MacKenzie:
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By Mr_awol
07th Sep 2021 17:37

I have looked at some of the science behind this move- it appears that happy, rested, motivated, staff may (according to the claims) be up to 12% more efficient.

So not enough of an increase to cover the missed day.

And if you are already keeping them happy and motivated, not making them work overtime (so they should be reasonably rested) I'm not convinced the three day weekend makes any difference to productivity at all. Maybe Wednesdays off might be maximum 'resting' but still not enough for miserable staff, let alone happy ones.

So we appear to be back (for now) the the likelihood that it is not, in fact, possible to do the same work in 80% of the time, unless you were slacking in the first place.

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By [email protected]
07th Sep 2021 12:47

Just to throw a couple of grenades into the mix.......
Has too much reliance has passed on to support functions and compliance rather than a focus on the "sharp end"? We always used to say that nothing happens until someone sells something. That was the base line for business and the mantra of the zero based planning gurus'.

Is the reason that the polls nearly always show a preference for Scottish Independence is due to Scots realising that the more they threaten to leave, the more they will get? Perhaps the reality is that it has worked well so far thanks to the Barnett formula.

Will more jobs be created to provide Government services (tax office, nuclear site, etc,) where a 5 or 7 day service is required? If so, another shrewd move Nicola!

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