Microsoft Japan joins the 4-day week club

As part of a Work-Life Choice Challenge the tech giant saw an impressive 40% rise in sales along with a 23% fall in electricity usage.
By: | November 5, 2019
Topics: Japan | News | Restructuring

The Japanese are known for working some of the longest hours in the world. It’s not uncommon for employees to work more than 80 hours overtime a month, often unpaid.

So trialling a four-day working week was somewhat of a culture shock for staff at Microsoft Japan. But despite the apprehension, the results were startling. There was a 40% increase in sales compared to the same month last year.

On top of this, there was a 23% drop in electricity usage and 59% fewer pages printed, partly due to the telecommuting initiative run during the same period. After the trial month, 92% of employees approved of the shorter working weeks.

One of the secrets of the 4-day working week’s success was discussing beforehand with staff how they would use their free time constructively. Employees were encouraged to devote time off to volunteering, professional development and family time.

As part of the challenge, offices were closed every Friday, allowing staff to work a four-day week on full pay. Meetings were restricted to a 30 minutes and online discussions were encouraged as an alternative to face-to-face.

But not all employers are in favour of shorter working weeks, despite growing evidence that they lead to greater productivity. A report commissioned by the Labour Party in the UK suggested a four-day working week would be “unrealistic”. Many workers find going part-time or reducing their work days means they end up having to squeeze the same amount of work into the time they have.