Microsoft Japan tested a 4-day work week in its offices over the summer, and discovered that employees were happier and more productive.
For the month of August, Microsoft Japan experimented with a new project called Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019, giving its entire 2,300-person workforce five Fridays off in a row without decreasing pay. The shortened weeks led to more efficient meetings, happier workers, and a significant 40% boost in productivity. As part of the program, the company had also planned to subsidize family vacations for employees up to ¥100,000 or $920 USD.
“Work a short time, rest well and learn a lot,” Microsoft Japan president and CEO Takuya Hirano said in a statement on Microsoft Japan’s website. “I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20% less working time.”
In addition to the increased productivity, employees took 25% less time off during the trial and electricity use was down 23% in the office with the additional day off per week. Employees printed 59% fewer pages of paper during the trial period as well. The vast majority of employees – a staggering 92% – said they liked the shorter week. I mean, who wouldn’t? Microsoft Japan are planning another iteration of the trial this winter, though that won’t involve granting paid leave.
The Guardian followed up this news by pointing to a number of studies with similar results. According to a 2018 survey of 3,000 employees by the Workforce Institute at Kronos, more than half of full-time workers reckon they could do their job in five hours a day. Another experiment published by the Harvard Business Review shows that shorter work days, defined as a decrease from the average 8-hour work day to a 6-hour work day, increased productivity.
This isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for every job, but it seems like something all large companies should consider investigating. We’re interested to see where these decreased work day experiments go in the coming few years, and we hope that Microsoft at large takes notice of their Japan branch’s work.