WITH schools unlikely to re-open full time, Nicola Sturgeon has said employers will have to take a more flexible approach to the 9 to 5 post-lockdown.

While some businesses are exploring a more permanent shift to home-working, the First Minister said she hoped a four-day week would also become something that “isn’t just talked about”.

Many European firms have already cut hours – in some cases without a drop in wages – because they believe it helps reduce burnout and makes workers more committed to their jobs.

READ MORE: Glasgow's Garage and Cathouse face being closed for months - but want to keep loyal staff for post lockdown

But the reduction in staff hours may not be practical for all businesses on a permanent basis, says Stuart Patrick, Chief Executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce.

He said: “We are seeing smaller businesses adapt to a four-day working week right now in a bid to survive but this is of course coupled with four days’ pay. 

“Whether this continues after lockdown, as we start to rebuild the economy, is something for individual businesses to decide – while it might work for some, it will certainly not be the right approach for others.

Glasgow Times: Stuart PatrickStuart Patrick

“There is some limited case study evidence that a shorter working week can boost productivity, however customers are not always so enthusiastic if it involves disruption to their service.” 

Many employers say they already offer staff a wide range of flexible working options, including social landlord GHA and Tesco, which says workers can opt for part-time hours, working on a set number of days a week, job sharing or, in some cases, working from home.

SSE, which employs around 800 people in Glasgow, says staff can opt for a four-day week as part of what it describes as “agile working” and added: “We currently have the vast majority of all office-based employees working from home through the pandemic and we will continue to consider how this might develop as we emerge from this situation.”

Consumer and welfare rights group,Advice Direct Scotland boasts some of the country’s most employee-friendly working practices.

The company introduced a four-day week for all its staff in 2018 at its Glasgow and Stornoway offices and all staff receive the same wages for working fewer hours.

Andrew Bartlett, chief executive of Advice Direct Scotland, said:“We are a people-first organisation, and we’re always exploring ways to improve the work-life balance.

“Absenteeism has reduced and productivity has increased as a result.

“Prior to lockdown, this created a more positive atmosphere in the office, with staff encouraged to share stories about the activities they enjoyed on their extra day off.

“As we move towards easing lockdown, we would certainly recommend a four-day working week to Scottish businesses.”

However, Donald MacLeod, owner of the Cathouse and the Garage nightclubs in Glasgow, says the notion of a four-day week is light years away for some businesses.

He said: “I would like to see the economy back up and running to its full capacity , especially the beleaguered hospitality sector which as it stands looks set to see thousands of its workforce join the dole before there is any fanciful talk of a four-day week.”

Glasgow Times: The Garage nightclub on Sauchiehall Street The Garage nightclub on Sauchiehall Street

Dr Josephine Adeokola ,an expert in business strategy at Glasgow Caledonian University, says firms “should expect to have to adapt” after Covid-19.

She said: “I know a lot of people are resistant to change but change is not necessarily a bad thing.

“Almost everyone is working from home now and that is something we might not have thought possible before.

“Businesses may face challenges introducing a four-day week but it’s not unmanageable.”

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which employs some 38,000 people, has said it is considering how more of its non-clinical staff can work from home. 

Staff already have access to a range of options including part-time hours, flexi-time and career breaks. 

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Brian MacMillan, director of F&M hairdressing in Barrhead, introduced four-day working on a trial basis before the pandemic struck. He believes it could help the Scottish economy bounce back by encouraging more people to take short breaks, closer to home.

He said: “With travelling likely to be heavily restricted for the remainder of the year, condensing the working week down to four days would encourage individuals to travel on ‘home soil’.

“We currently have three members of staff working on a four-day-week basis, as a trial, and I can see potential in this becoming a reality for many businesses.

“My only worry as a salon owner is the fact our team will require extra time with their clients due to the introduction of PPE, therefore in a four-day working week hours could be seriously extended and I’m unsure how feasible it would be.”

Kim Ritchie, who runs a PR firm called Flat White Communications, added: "Ultimately it’s about trusting the people you work with to deliver at a time that works for everyone.

"The traditional working week is a thing of the past."