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Barra Distillers new four-day working week hailed as ‘amazing’

Isle of Barra Distillers introduced a four-day working week 
L-R Shona Gray, Michael Morrison, Katie Morrison, Debbie MacMillan.
Isle of Barra Distillers introduced a four-day working week L-R Shona Gray, Michael Morrison, Katie Morrison, Debbie MacMillan.

A gin distillery in the Outer Hebrides has introduced a new four-day working week for its “close-knit team”.

The team of six at Isle of Barra Distillers enjoy a shorter working week with no loss of pay.

It’s a move that’s been welcomed by staff with office manager Debbie MacMillan describing the new work regime as “amazing”.

Isle of Barra Distillers is Scotland’s most westerly whisky and gin producer and was founded in 2016 by husband and wife Michael and Katie Morrison.

The change means staff work slightly longer hours everyday to complete the equivalent of five days and orders are no longer dispatched on Fridays.

That Friday feeling – on Thursday

But Ms MacMillan believes it’s worthwhile and has increased productivity and motivation among staff.

The 28-year-old, who has worked for the distillery for two and a half years, said: “We can all agree that your two days at the weekend is not enough.

“Between juggling a social life, housework and children if you have them, you’ve not got a lot of time to squeeze that in.

Debbie MacMillan Isle of Barra Distillers office manager

“I was over the moon as soon as it was mentioned and still can’t believe we are doing it.

“It’s amazing. I get the Friday feeling on a Thursday.

“We’ve yet to come across a negative part to the four-day working week.

“You can dive into your work and have a decent amount of time to get through everything.”

Isle of Barra Distillers.

The idea to start the four-day week was first discussed six months ago before being introduced.

With no garage, hospital and few retails shops on the island it’s a five-hour ferry journey to the mainland for residents of Barra.

Ms MacMillan said: “We work as a very close knit team and it’s really important to the owners that we are happy.

“It aids the work and life balance and your mental health.

“We are a five-hour ferry journey from mainland Scotland and due to weather it can sometimes be a bit tricky getting off the island.

“But having the extra day allows us to have a day to travel and a day to return without having to use annual leave.

“It’s working really well for us.”

Isle of Barra Distillers produced gin

Benefit the whole team

Michael and Katie Morrison added: “We have taken some time to think about the pros and cons and had discussions with employees to make sure this change will benefit everyone.

“The four-day working week provides employees with more free time outside of work, with no loss in pay.

“There are several advantages such as cutting down on childcare costs, less commuting to work and simply having more time to spend with loved ones.

Michael & Katie Morrison with their children

“We are flexible so if at any point our team’s circumstances change, we of course look to make the hours work as best we can.”

Isle of Barra is one of several Scottish businesses who joined a pilot programme of a four-day working week – however, Mr Morrison said it is to continue for the forseeable future.

The trial is organised by 4 Day Week Global, in partnership with think tank Autonomy, the 4 Day Week UK Campaign and researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College.

New £6m project on track

It’s full steam ahead for the business with the Morrison’s set to open a new whisky and gin distillery with visitor centre.

Isle of Barra Distillers new whisky and gin distillery and visitor centre

The venue, which is estimated to cost £6m for the build, will open in March 2024 and bring at least 40 jobs to the island and generate tourism both locally and further afield.

Once built, it is planned that the whisky distillery will produce 200,000 litres of pure alcohol per year, with expectations that production could double with the addition of an increased workforce.

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