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Microsoft Japan’s 4-day work week boosted productivity by 40 percent

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Microsoft Japan announced the results of its 4-day work week trial which ran in August. The 4-day experiment was extremely popular with their employees and, most importantly, increased productivity by 39.9 percent.

The entire workforce at Microsoft Japan trialed a 4-day work week called the “Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019”. Around 2300 employees were given the five Fridays in August off, without any reduction in salary or it affecting their annual leave.

According to The Mainichi, Microsoft Japan also plans to subsidize employees’ family vacations or further education by up to ¥100,000 (about $916).

Takuya Hirano, president and CEO of Microsoft Japan said of the experiment: “Work a short time, rest well and learn a lot. It’s necessary to have an environment that allows you to feel your purpose in life and make a greater impact at work. I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20 percent less working time.”

Although the 5-day work week has been standard around the globe for decades it might be worth considering Microsoft Japan’s results and rethink the system.

The impressive 39.9 percent increase in productivity was attributed to employees being more effective and resourceful with their time. Many meetings, in particular, were shortened, cut, or held remotely to eliminate the commute.

 

Results also showed that employees took 25.4 percent less time off during the trial, and since the offices were empty for 5 extra days, electricity use was reduced by 23.1 percent and 58.7 percent fewer pages were printed. An overall win/win for employees, the company and the environment.

The extra day off was a big hit with 92.1 percent of employees while those in customer service roles stated they found it hard to relax on their Fridays while the rest of the world carried on as usual.

Shorter work hours have previously been shown to have positive effects on the happiness and productivity of employees. Perpetual Guardian in New Zealand, after a two month trail which showed productivity increase by 20 percent, switched to a permanent 4-day work week in 2018. The company’s employees also reported significant improvement in their work-life balance, and like Microsoft Japan, meetings were shortened and electricity bills reduced while salaries remained the same.

Although interest in a shortened work week has gained momentum in recent years, the 4-day work week does have its challenges, such as keeping up with customers and competition.  Having half their staff having Fridays off and the other half Mondays is a solution that seems to be working for some businesses.

Microsoft Japan reportedly wants to repeat its 4-day work week experiment next summer, and perhaps also implement it at other times.

 

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