AMONG the awfulness of the Covid-19 crisis, and I don't think we can talk about the positives without acknowledging the suffering, there has been much talk about how radical policy changes might build us a better future.

Universal Basic Income is one such, a left wing ideal repeatedly raised and rejected. The four-day week is another, feted by some as the answer to capitalism's ills and rejected by others as a pie in the sky dream that's anti-productivity.

Jacinda Ardern is enjoying the sort of popularity ratings the likes of which other politicians might only dream, and so anything she blinks at becomes headline news.

Earlier this month she was asked about whether a four-day week might become the new norm as an outcome of responses to the Covid-19 crisis. Her reply was carefully measured and lukewarm at best, but it generated headlines breathily suggesting that the New Zealand prime minister was considering the idea.

What she said was, in fact: "I hear lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day work week. Ultimately that really sits between employers and employees."

Similar occurred here when Nicola Sturgeon was asked about the possibility of a shift in our idea of what a working week should entail.

It's an idea that's floated periodically and dismissed but moving out of lockdown and rebuilding the economy will take agility, flexibility and the consideration of a suite of policy ideas. A four day working week as a new standard should be one of those.

Not everyone would be for it, of course, from an employer or employee perspective. One Glasgow nightclub owner, asked his view on the idea last week, said it was vital to get the economy up and running before introducing the "fanciful notion" of a four-day week.

Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, is similarly in need of persuasion. "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."

A four day week shouldn't lead to disruption of service, however. One of the mistakes when talking about a four day week is the assumption that Thursday would be the new Friday and office hours would be compressed from Monday to Thursday.

Negativity about the idea includes the notion that a four-day week would become the preserve of the elite as only white collar workers would benefit. That argument seems to ignore that fact that many people currently work weekends - that doesn't mean they work seven days a week, that means they take their days off on week days.

Moving to a three day weekend of Friday to Sunday wouldn't work for everyone and so would be entirely anti the core ethos of the suggested reduction in working hours, which is to improve work/life balance.

The hospitality industry has been hostile to the idea, saying that its economy will take long hours to get back up and running. But surely people having more leisure time will lead to an increase in spending in restaurants and coffee shops, it will boost internal tourism and, if people do gravitate towards a three-day weekend, the nightclub scene could benefit from more people able to stay out on a Thursday night and sleep long on Friday.

Britons are no shirkers when it comes to putting in the hours. We work on average 1514 hours each per year, four full weeks more than in Germany, and some of the longest in Europe. Yet we are less productive. Germans produce a GDP of $60.50 per hour worked compared to our $53.50.

Case studies repeatedly show that when hours are reduced, productivity rises. Working a four day week does not mean working less, it means working more efficiently in the time you have - less cyberloafing and greater output.

Cutting hours is also beneficial to the environment. When additional days off are spread across a business it means 20 per cent fewer people travelling to work, creating fewer emissions and lessening the impact of rush hour traffic. It also, for offices, means the use of less electricity, another huge carbon generator.

Employees who work fewer hours report an increased sense of wellbeing, better fitness, improved relationships with friends, partners and children. It's good for business and good for people.

But a reduction in the working week might not only mean fewer days, but fewer hours spread over more days. It might suit some people to do a six hour day so they might drop of or pick up children.

This is particularly vital as parents are being expected to participate in blended learning for an unspecified time period until the virus has subsided enough that schools might resume full time hours.

The modern working day was built to suit the body clock and circumstances of middle aged men. It's outdated and inefficient; it doesn't work well for women or for current lifestyles.

We've shown that workplaces and employees can adapt rapidly to change. There is no better time than now to reshape the world of work to suit employees.

Proper consideration of a working norm that respects every element of an employee's life is vital and a four-day week is an excellent place to start.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.