Scots lawyers say yes to four-day work week in SLN poll
Scots lawyers are overwhelmingly in favour of a four-day work week, a Scottish Legal News poll has, unsurprisingly, found.
Of the 331 responses to our survey, 286 readers, or 86.4 per cent, answered ‘yes’ to the question: Do you believe that lawyers should work a four-day week?
A mere 45, or 13.6 per cent, said ‘no’, they would not prefer to work four days.
In terms of age, 42.9 per cent of respondents, or 142, were aged 25-34; 28.7 per cent, or 95, were aged 35-44. Thirty-six, or 10.9 per cent of readers, were aged 45-54 and 12.1 per cent were 55 or older. The smallest group, 5.4 per cent of respondents, were aged 18-24.
Younger respondents clearly preferred a four-day working week but a considerable percentage of readers over 55 were against the proposal.
One lucky reader said: “I work four days and find energy and efficiency are improved.”
Another respondent lamented the fact that weekend working was becoming the norm. “The constant ‘on’ culture needs to come to an end as we are facing burn out so a four day working week becoming the norm would be most welcome.”
But others were sceptical.
“The dream of the four day working week may be incredibly attractive, however I cannot see how it could be adopted without first doing away with time recording.”
Another commented: “It is already difficult enough to deal with the workload working five days, I cannot possibly see how reducing this would help create a better work/life balance.”
Stated one thoughtful response: “Are we talking four days work for five days pay or simply four days pay (in which case many won’t be able to afford it and reduced workweeks benefit richer people mainly)? Also, will the four days be compressed hours, i.e. the fifth day gets absorbed by the remaining four and people work longer on those days?”
The world’s biggest trial of the four day work week was conducted in the UK last year and provides a template for how such a system might work in practice.
Sixty companies trialled the revised work week, with more than 90 per cent of businesses opting to continue with it and 18 adopting it permanently.
The pilot ran between June and December 2022 and was based on the 100-80-100 model, in which workers got 100 per cent pay for working 80 per cent of their previous hours – in exchange for a commitment to maintain 100 per cent productivity.
Around 2,900 employees took part in the trial, which was organised by 4 Day Week Global in partnership with Autonomy, the 4 Day Week Campaign and researchers from the University of Cambridge and Boston College.
One lawyer responding to our poll said their firm was already looking into adopting a four-day work week. “I have been told our firm is looking to trial this – I am looking forward to it.” And another already enjoys the four-day week: “Our firm already implements this policy to good effect.”
Implying that those who want the change must make a case for it, a defiant respondent asked: “Why should we?”
The culture of the legal profession is perhaps not ready for the four-day week since a five-day week would represent progress for many. A response from a harassed lawyer read: “I’d love to say yes, but for those those living in the real world, our clients would not accept this. They expect us to be available seven days a week, not four.”
Sage counsel from another read: “Fridays are not utilised well in any event. We can achieve this in more condensed hours from Monday to Thursday.”
A court lawyer said the plan would be unworkable. “The level of work undertaken as a largely legal aid-funded practice would simply mean any additional day would inevitably be used to tackle the ever increasing administrative mountain that seems to have increased with technology as opposed to reduced.”
A busy solicitor said there was just too much work to reduce the working week to four days.
“Now that the world is getting back to normal post-pandemic, business is increasing. Quite simply, there is not enough time to get through this business over the course of four days. Every solicitor I speak to says the same – business is increasing and it already feels that it is impossible to get through the work even over the course of five days.”
A reader intimately familiar with the four-day week said: “I worked four days a week for nearly 18 years. It has never been problematic except when I had a proof coming up the week after. Not being in the office on a Friday the week before proof was incredibly stressful because there were no sensible arrangements in place for a colleague to be on point. There was also always a feeling from some colleagues that they resented having to do anything on a colleagues cases when that colleague worked part time. These issues could easily be managed by a pro-active employer. The work life balance that can be achieved is incredible and so worth it.”
Finally, one reader summed up the feeling of the majority: “Yes, dear God yes.”
They added: “A thousand times yes.”