Scottish Government agency kicks off four-day working week pilot

Chief exec says 32-hour week matches agency's values of being "bold and ambitious"
Civil servants will work longer hours for four days a week Photo: congerdesign/Pixabay

Civil servants at one of Scotland’s enterprise agencies have become the first to kick off a four-day working week pilot.

Staff at South of Scotland Enterprise began their new pattern of working four longer days instead of the traditional five on 2 October. 

The agency’s 141 officials are working for 32 hours across the four days – just three less than they have until now.

The so-called “pathfinder project” comes ahead of the planned launch later this year of the Scottish Government’s four-day working week pilot, which will expand the initiative to a number of as-yet unnamed public bodies.

Over the next 12 months, South of Scotland Enterprise will gather data to aid understanding of the benefits and challenges of altered working hours.

The agency, which supports and advises businesses, social enterprises and community groups across the region, will continue to operate for five days a week.

Confirmation of other public bodies set to trial the new way of working will be announced when the wider Scottish Government pilot launches.

Scotland’s wellbeing, economy and fair work secretary, Neil Gray, said work is at “an advanced stage to engage a partner to design, support and produce an evaluation report” for the pilot.

“The Scottish Government will launch its public sector four day working week pilot later this year and work is at an advanced stage to engage a partner to design, support and produce an evaluation report. Confirmation of other public bodies taking part will be announced at the launch.

“We welcome the start of SOSE’s pathfinder project and will incorporate the insights and findings it provides into our pilot."

SOSE chief executive Jane Morrison-Ross said the agency is “delighted” to have been selected as the first to trial the four-day working week.

“Since our establishment in April 2020, SOSE has aimed to be bold and ambitious for the South, as well as reflect the circumstances of the region,” she said.

"We believe taking part in this innovative pilot matches these values, and has the potential to provide benefits to our productivity, our workforce in terms of health and wellbeing, and allowing colleagues to contribute further to the regional economy.”

Morrison-Ross said the data gathered and analysed through the project “will enable SOSE to provide further intelligence for evidence-based studies around this topic, such as the theory around there being a number of unproductive hours per day for organisations which operate the traditional five day working week”.

The pilot comes after a similar scheme in which 61 UK businesses trialled a four-day working week between June and December last year.

All but five of the companies that took part retained the working pattern after the pilot ended. Research conducted as part of the pilot indicated 39% of the nearly 3,000 employees involved were less stressed as a result, and 71% had reduced levels of burnout by the end of the pilot.

The research indicated that companies’ performance broadly stayed the same during the trial, and the number of staff leaving the participating companies fell by 60%.

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