Ben HaywardNovember 4th
2019

In good news for those of us who bang on about a four-day working week,  Microsoft Japan have successfully tested the concept - and seen a huge increase in productivity.

In fact, the company recorded an impressive 40% jump in productivity levels after giving employees a three-day weekend as part of a wider project to promote a healthier work-life balance.

Held throughout August, the ‘Work Life Choice Challenge’ saw Microsoft Japan close its doors on Fridays, giving its 2,300 employees three-day weekends for the whole month so they could assess the positives and negatives of a reduced workweek, reports CNBC.

Microsoft Introduces Three-Day Weekend

Alarmingly, over August the firm saw productivity - measured by sales per employee - rise by a very unexpected 39.9% compared with August of last year (2018). 

Microsoft reckon the boom in productivity was partly due to a ‘meetings cap’ that was put in place, limiting meetings to no more than 30 minutes. This had the knock-on effect of creating an increase in remote conferences and a fall in costs, with 23.1% less electricity used and 58.7% fewer pages printed over the period.

As well as the reduced office hours, the work life choice challenge also introduced self-development and family wellness schemes, and recorded some very positive feedback from employees, with 92.1% saying they liked the four-day workweek. 

The scheme proved so successful that Microsoft Japan are now planning to conduct a similar work-life challenge this winter which will be aimed at encouraging greater flexibility in people’s working patterns.

Four-Day Week

The idea of a four-day workweek has been gaining traction across the world  traction as the benefits in reducing stress and preventing overwork - with no loss to output or profit - are being recognised. 

In 2018, a New Zealand firm dubbed its two-month trial of a four-day workweek a success in improving work-life balance, while Virgin founder Richard Branson regularly outlines its merits for boosting happiness.

Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), believes the UK could see the four-day week introduced ‘this century’…  

Speaking at a convention earlier this year, she said: "In the 19th century, unions campaigned for an eight-hour day. In the 20th century, we won the right to a two-day weekend and paid holidays.

Microsoft Introduce Four-Day week

"So, for the 21st century, let's lift our ambition again. I believe that in this century we can win a four-day working week, with decent pay for everyone. It's time to share the wealth from new technology, not allow those at the top to grab it for themselves."

The negative impacts of overwork are particularly clear in Japan where they’ve even coined a term for the extreme working culture, ‘karoshi’, which translates as ‘death by overwork’.

Who's ready for a three-day weekend?

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