- Microsoft Japan has tried a radical idea in a country notorious for overwork: to work less. And it found that four-day weeks and other changes increased both revenue and cost savings.
- The results were positive, with revenue per worker increasing nearly 40 percent from a year earlier in August, reducing electricity consumption by a third, and cutting paper use by half.
Microsoft Japan has tried a radical idea in a country notorious for overwork: to work less. And it found that four-day weeks and other changes increased both revenue and cost savings.
The US IT giant’s Japanese division shut its offices every Friday in August, giving special leave to all 2,300 full-time workers.
It also restricted meetings to up to 30 minutes, promoting online chats as an alternative to face-to-face interactions.
The number of meeting participants was limited to five, and employees were also encouraged to use online communication rather than emails, he said.
The results were positive, with revenue per worker increasing nearly 40 percent from a year earlier in August, reducing electricity consumption by a third, and cutting paper use by half.
The firm said the trial showed that “employees want a variety of ways to work” and that more broadly adopting the model could boost efficiency.
It is planning to launch a similar program this fall, but it’s not going to offer special leave.
Employees are instead encouraged to take advantage of their current holiday days, it said.
The program comes as the government of Japan calls for more “flexible modes of work,” encouraging companies to consider telecommuting, different part-time schedules, and off-peak commuting.
The effort is part of an attempt to address the “karoshi” issue— death from overwork — and to encourage overworked and overburdened couples in a country struggling with a shrinking population.n
Another experiment published by the Harvard Business Review shows shorter working days, a decrease from an average working day of 8 hours to a working day of 6 hours, increased productivity.
A 2018 survey of 3,000 employees from the Kronos Workforce Institute found that over half of full-time workers thought they could do their job in five hours a day.
The challenge for Microsoft Japan was just a pilot project, the company said in a statement to the Guardian, and it is unclear whether these changes will be implemented elsewhere or on a longer-term basis in offices. It is planning to implement another competition version this season.
“We are always looking for new ways to develop and exploit our own technologies in the spirit of a growth mentality to improve the experience of our employees around the world,” a spokesperson for Microsoft said.
The experiment is not the first long weekend in the corporate world to experiment. New Zealand’s trust management company Perpetual Guardian tested its 240 staff members for a four-day workweek over two months in 2018. Employees indicated better work-life balance and better workplace concentration. The stress levels of the workers decreased by 7%.
Workers have often said that with less time in the office, they could be more productive. A survey conducted by HR consulting firm Robert Half of 1,500 employees and 600 human resources executives found 66 percent of workers who said they wanted to work fewer than five days a week.