Over the summer Microsoft in Japan tested out a 4-day work week (employees got the same pay as when the work weeks were a day longer). They reported that their employees were 40% more productive during the trail run of the 4-day work week program. The pilot project was called the “Work Life Choice Challenge 2019 Summer”. Microsoft Japan is considering running a similar project this winter with an added focus on worker flexibility.
Other benefits of the 4-day work week were related to efficiency. Microsoft Japan says they were down 23% in electricity cost during the month of August. They also printed around 58% less paper during the shorter work weeks. Additionally meetings were cut from one hour to thirty minutes, capped at five people, and employees were encouraged to use online chatting with their coworkers to avoid time wasting meetings and emails.
A Microsoft spokesperson reported to NPR, “In the spirit of a growth mindset, we are always looking for new ways to innovate and leverage our own technology to improve the experience for our employees around the globe.”
According to a poll Microsoft Japan did of their 2,300 employees that participated in the experiment 92% said they liked the shortened work week.
People in Japan often work extremely long hours. In a 2016 study by the Japanese government, nearly 25% of Japanese companies were found to demand that their employees work at least 80 hours of overtime in a month. The term “karoshi” in Japanese translates to “death by overwork”. Companies such as Microsoft are beginning to recognize this as an issue. If the data from the 4-day work week holds up it would be a win-win for companies who want higher productivity and lower operating costs and for employees who need and deserve manageable work-life balance.
Microsoft has said they will continue working on ways to combat issues of burnout and promote work-life balance in their company.
How does your employer promote work-life balance? In what other ways could a 4-day work week positively impact the economy as a whole?