Weekly Poll – Four-day Working Week
Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 6 September 2021, we asked a question about the prospect of a four-day working week.
Question 1. Do you think a four-day working week can help to improve workplace wellbeing and productivity?
- YES – 78% (84 respondents)
- NO – 22% (24 respondents)
We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.
Some respondents believed a four-day working week would result in a greater work-life balance, allowing individuals to spend more time with their family and friends. This may also free up time for personal development to pursue hobbies and interests, which can have a positive impact on mental wellbeing.
“I’ve previously had the opportunity to work a four-day week – but working 10 hours a day rather than 8. The extra day off was fantastic – it allowed me to do all those little things that normally get relegated to the weekend on this day which meant I now had the weekend to spend with family.”
“Being able to spend more time with family or friends, do hobbies, be outside and all of those things that are good for the psyche has to be beneficial. Work-related stress and presenteeism are at epidemic levels and that should improve if pressures are lifted.”
“I’ll be as productive, if not more so and the non-working weekday will allow me to provide care to my elderly relatives – this will be good for them and me! It’s also a chance to use the time to develop myself – I want to learn and study.”
“Assuming that one is moving from a five-day (or higher) working week to a four-day working week, I see the following thoughts: more time for private life to be with family, friends, training and education, relaxing, spiritual activity, physical activity and voluntary community services that are of a different nature than the usual work for income (on four-days a week).”
“I already do condensed hours to enable me to do four days a week and does make a big difference on my mental and physical wellbeing.”
Impact on Disabled People
Respondents reflected on the impact a four-day working week could have on disabled people. Examples were given of people with chronic pain conditions, who believed that an extra day off would help with managing their condition. By offering a greater degree of flexibility, this could allow some disabled people to find suitable employment and help reduce the disability employment gap.
“I have worked part time and now work full time, a four-day week would suit myself better as I suffer from chronic pain disorder and feel sometime the full week can seem too much some weeks, but luckily I am on flexi hours so I can move my days about. I think a four-day week would be more ideal for my condition.”
“Disabled people often struggle to work a full week and I personally think this would allow some disabled people to get back into work.”
“In order to manage my disability/long-term care, having a four-day week will offer me opportunities to continue to work and keep well.”
“Having a disability or long-term conditions needs flexible working, so four-day week and variations thereof would be very helpful.”
“Lots of people have extremely demanding jobs, and I can bet many of those people are also disabled as well. Being employed and disabled can be difficult as you’re more likely to burn out, have an accident or potentially experience deterioration of mental and physical health issues without adequate rest. Working a four-day week would allow many people to get adequate rest and in turn this may actually lead to them performing their role better.”
“I am disabled and at the end of my working life. The four days that I work are too much for me. I can see the benefits the shorter week could bring to those younger than myself. People often forget the struggles disabled people have to get to work, whether that’s physical obstacles to overcome or transport issues or many other problems. A four-day week would certainly lighten the load.”
Respondents believed that a four-day working week will result in an increase to workplace productivity. Staff morale may increase, with employees feeling more fulfilled and focused on their role. A more productive workforce could also help improve overall recruitment and retention of staff.
“There will be more enthusiasm from workers and more leisure time to recharge that enthusiasm.”
“Productivity will increase if people are happier at work.”
“I notice a big difference when I take a Friday off and I have 3 days’ rest, that extra day makes such a difference to how rested I feel and how re-energised I feel on a Monday morning. If more people felt like this then productivity would increase, so would morale, so would wellbeing/mental health and physical health. Let’s face it, an extra day not just sitting at a desk is bound to be good for you.”
“One is refreshed and inspired from the extra non-work time to bring ideas and energy to the paid-work experience. This energy and these ideas can enhance productivity and effectiveness for working life and for meeting the workplace objectives.”
However, a portion of respondents believed that a four-day working week could result in staff being expected to work the same number of hours in four instead of five. As a result, this could lead to work-related stress and a reduction in wellbeing and productivity.
“The stress of trying to fit the amount of work done over 5 days into four might have the reverse effect and end up with more work-based stress.”
“Employers would expect their staff to fit in even more work than they do at the moment. While we still have employers, sending emails or phone calls, at all times of the day and night, and even when employees are on holiday or just their days off. Asking employers to go down to a four-day week, would just encourage even more to push harder, and harass their employees, which would result in more stress, anxiety and breakdowns or loss of jobs.”
“Because of my disability it takes me longer to undertake and complete tasks and having 1 day less to finish all my work would reduce the time I would have available, increase pressure on me and place me at a further disadvantage compared to my non-disabled colleagues. It would mean I would have to complete 5 days work in four days and it’s hard enough sometimes to complete 5 days of work in 5 days.”
“Only if not expected to do 5 days’ work in four – that would cause real stress for someone with a disability. Also, a risk that disabled people will benefit less from this than non-disabled.”
“A lot of companies who pacifically employ disabled people know that most of their employees would not be able to try and up their productivity to make the equivalent goods in four instead of 5 days a week”
There were general comments from members who believed that employers must also consider the benefits of flexible working arrangements. During the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses had to quickly adapt their practices, with their staff working from home. This has proved to be beneficial for some disabled people, particularly for those who rely on traveling to their work using public transport, which can be expensive and unreliable.
“The pandemic has shown that we can change our working patterns in ways that would have been inconceivable before. Employers must realise there is a huge advantage in not returning to the old ways. Many people will accept a longer working day for the payoff of a long weekend.”
“Better flexibility is good for disabled people in our bid to sustain employment.”
“I am fortunate with my employer in being able to manage my own time and work longer days when /as I want and flex time off. this enables me to prioritise effectively and also achieve a better balance of having a 3-day weekend.”
“Why stop at reducing the working week to four days? I believe a three-day working week is even better. We are not slaves. We need to review all work so that there is greater human dignity, safety (emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual) so that our communities grow more compassionate and loving for all life on earth.”
The Scottish Government has pledged A £10 million fund to trial a four-day working week with office-based workers in Scotland. Some respondents believed that the pilot scheme must include a wider range of sectors and working environments.
“This would have to be available for every employment. not just for office-based workers. I would include security workers and it would help disabled people workers. I feel every occupation should be looked at very carefully.”
“It is essential that any trials cover all sectors and all types of employment, just because something works in an office setting doesn’t mean it will work for manual jobs in rural Scotland for example.”
There were calls from a portion of respondents to trial a four-day week in education settings. Respondents believed that young people may experience the same benefits, such as improved wellbeing and mental health.
“We have to think about schools too. Our kids and teenagers would probably learn more from a four-day week too and not have the lethargy and lack of stamina they suffer from now and will increase everyone’s wellbeing in general.”
“Schools should also open only four days a week. My local council would save millions of pounds if it had to subsidise school buses only four days a week instead of 5. This would leave them with more money to spend on such essentials as care-in-the community for disabled people which is badly underfunded at present. I am strongly in favour of the four-day week as long as it applies to students and schoolchildren as well as to workers.”
“Does this mean that the schools will go for a four-day school week so that the kids can be home at the same time as the parents? The working week at the moment is 5 days although that is already eaten into by employers who make their staff work on rota all weekends, and the school is 5 days. To change it all would just lead to complications and the kids wouldn’t want to go to school that extra day.”
The majority of respondents believed that a four-day working week would result in increased workplace wellbeing, and productivity. It would allow employees to create a better work-life balance in order to spend more time with family and friends. In return, employers may benefit from a more productive and motivated workforce. However, respondents highlighted that there is a risk of increased working hours and that some employers will expect the same levels of work to be completed in four days. This could result in work-related stress, which would therefore counter the benefits that a four-day working week could offer. A few respondents stated that the pilot scheme must be extended to cover different sectors and working environments. This includes the possibility of implementing the pilot in education settings, so that a greater understanding can be identified for the impact on young people.