SCOTLAND faces a “difficult balancing act” when it returns to a “new normal” after the coronavirus lockdown.

The “blended” method of schooling – made up of in-school and at home learning – means employers are going to need to look at different working patterns. 

One such idea being encouraged by the First Minister is a four-day working week.

Responding to questions from Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard in the Scottish Parliament on how the economy would look following the coronavirus crisis, Nicola Sturgeon said it was important not to slip into “old and bad ways of doing things”.

She said: “Things like a four-day week are no longer things that we should just be talking about, these are things we should be encouraging employers to look at embracing, and there are a whole range of things that fall into that category.”

Other ideas include flexible working and staggered start times.

What is a four-day working week?

Quite simply, it is as the name suggests.

Instead of working five days, you will be working four – but rather than compressing the usual hours, an employee has reduced hours.

For example, instead of working 37.5hours, they will work 30 hours over the four days.

Many have suggested the arrangement enables a better work/life balance for employees and results in greater productivity when working. 

What do people who already run it say?

A Glasgow-based charity that moved to a four-day week in 2018 said it had led to many benefits.

Advice Direct Scotland, which advises people on consumer, benefits and debts issues, gave their staff fewer working hours while maintaining the same wages.

Chief executive Andrew Bartlet said it had led to a better work-life balance for the organisation, consisting of around 90 employees and 100 volunteers.

He said: “In 2018, we became one of the first major organisations in Scotland to introduce a four-day working week, recognising the positive difference this would make.

“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.”

Could it be implemented in Scotland or the UK?

The concept has been gaining traction in recent years and it comes as no surprise that it is being suggested in a bid to restore the country’s economy.

It comes as Chancellor Rishi Sunak has warned the UK is facing a “severe recession, the likes of which we have never seen” as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Several firms across the country, as highlighted above, already voluntarily operate the scheme, but it is yet to be formally enshrined in law.

But the recent move by Ms Sturgeon to encourage the four-day working week could go a long way to the ‘new normal’ we are to expect once lockdown ends.