Microsoft Japan sees 40 per cent increase in productivity after introducing four-day week

Technology company saves money in trial by cutting electricity consumption by 23 per cent

Conrad Duncan
Monday 04 November 2019 14:59 GMT
Microsoft Japan introduced a four-day week and cut meeting times to 30 minutes to improve work-life balance
Microsoft Japan introduced a four-day week and cut meeting times to 30 minutes to improve work-life balance

A Microsoft Japan trial into improving work-life balance has found productivity increased by 40 per cent when employees were given a four-day working week.

Full-time employees were allowed to take five consecutive Fridays off in August with pay in the research project.

Meetings were also shortened to a maximum of 30 minutes and remote online conferences were encouraged over face-to-face meetings to cut down on travel time.

In addition to the increase in productivity, Microsoft Japan was able to save money in the trial by reducing electricity consumption by 23 per cent and reducing printed paper by 59 per cent compared to August 2018.

The results showed 92 per cent of employees were pleased with the four-day week and a similar trial is planned for winter, which will encourage workers to be “more flexible” with their hours.

However, the firm reported that some employees are worried the four-day week will inconvenience customers if it is widely implemented.

The trial findings are important in Japan as the country has recently attempted to curb its culture of long working hours.

There is even a word in Japanese for deaths caused by overworking – “Karoshi”.

The country’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, introduced a law earlier this year to limit legal overtime work to 45 hours a month and 360 hours a year.

In the UK, 63 per cent of adults support a four-day week, according to YouGov, and the Labour Party has committed to reducing the average full-time working week to 32 hours with no loss of pay within the next decade.

“As society got richer, we could spend fewer hours at work. But in recent decades progress has stalled,” John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said in September.

“People in our country today work the longest average full-time hours in Europe apart from Greece and Austria.

“And since the 1980s, the link between increasing productivity matched by expanding free time has been broken.”

In 2018, a New Zealand company that trialled a four-day week with no loss in pay found employees had lower stress levels, higher levels of job satisfaction and were 20 per cent more productive.

The company, Perpetual Guardian, said it would implement the shorter working week on a permanent basis.

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