Strathclyde gives staff Fridays off during latest lockdown

Vice-chancellor says feedback from first lockdown shows four-day week ‘helps improve work-life balance’

January 6, 2021
Source: iStock

The University of Strathclyde has told staff that they do not have to work on Fridays during the latest coronavirus lockdown.

Following the announcement that Scotland was going into another national lockdown on 4 January, principal Sir Jim McDonald wrote to staff to say that they could use Fridays as a “rest and recuperation day”.

The days were initially introduced by the university at the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020. They continued until August when they were replaced with “meeting-free” Fridays to help staff “focus on work with minimal interruptions”.

The University of Newcastle also implemented a four-day week during April 2020 to help staff “try and achieve more of a balance between work and home life” during lockdown.

“We recognise the challenges and additional pressures that lockdown creates for colleagues, not only in adjusting to working from home but also in terms of home-schooling, childcare and other caring responsibilities, their mental health and physical well-being,” Sir Jim said.

“Rest day Fridays during lockdown have allowed us to support our families and loved ones, and ensure we look after our own well-being too.” He added that anyone who couldn’t take Fridays off should talk to their manager about taking an alternative day.

Sir Jim said that the institution had received a lot of positive feedback from staff about the rest days from the first lockdown. He said that the university had also accelerated the rollout of its “agile working policy”, which provides more flexibility on where and when staff work.

“Our people are at the heart of everything we do, and their health and well-being has been at the forefront of all our decision-making throughout the pandemic,” he said. “Our commitment to our people has been returned many times over. Colleagues have pulled together despite often difficult circumstances: to rapidly reshape teaching and learning; they have redoubled our efforts in student support; and they have responded to the need for research and expertise in areas aligned to the global Covid-19 response.”

However, academics pointed out on social media that without a reduction in workload, it would be hard to fit work into four days.

In response, Daniela Sime, professor of youth, migration and social justice at Strathclyde, tweeted that during the last lockdown, while not everyone was able to take Fridays off, given workloads or the need to be in laboratories, most people did and they appreciated the signal that well-being was important.

“For parents with young children, or those who need to provide daily care, it doesn’t fix all problems, but it helps – especially for well-being,” she wrote.

anna.mckie@timeshighereducation.com

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