Four days at work, three days off, full salary: Microsoft employees in Japan had a good summer.
During August this year, Microsoft Japan tried out an experiment. Dubbed the Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019, all 2,300 employees were given five Fridays off in a row without any decrease in pay.
As a result, the tech giant yielded some major benefits: electricity costs fell by 23%, but most importantly of all, productivity was boosted by a massive 40%.
Due to the longer weekend, 59% fewer pages of paper were printed during the trial. Meeting times were also cut from 60 minutes to 30, with online discussions being encouraged as an alternative to face-to-face; Microsoft Japan previously said in a blog post there was often no reason for meetings to run an hour.
Microsoft Japan president and CEO Takuya Hirano said in a statement:
Work a short time, rest well and learn a lot. I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20% less working time.
Unsurprisingly, the company’s workers were fans – the Work-Life Choice Challenge 2019 Summer experiment was popular with 92% of the staff it surveyed after the trial.
While the experiment was just a pilot project and there’s no indication whether they will adopt a four-day week, there are plans to implement another iteration of the challenge this winter.
As reported by The Guardian, a Microsoft spokesman said:
In the spirit of a growth mindset, we are always looking for new ways to innovate and leverage our own technology to improve the experience for our employees around the globe.
This isn’t the first time a four-day week has proved to be a positive change. In 2018, New Zealand trust management company Perpetual Guardian held a similar trial.
The company found it sparked a 20% rise in employee productivity and a 45% increase in employee work-life balance. Last October, the company decided to permanently adopt the policy.
A 2017 survey suggested employees across a quarter of Japanese companies were working more than 80 hours overtime a month, often unpaid.
While a four-day week is a popular desire particularly among young people, a report commissioned by the Labour Party in September this year says it may not be ‘realistic’.
While the report, conducted by cross-bench peer Robert Skidelsky, agreed it would be ‘good for material and spiritual well-being’, the policy the party is considering would allegedly not be ‘realistic or even desirable’.
Who to believe – the report saying we should work more, or an experiment saying we should work less? Yeah, that’s a tricky one…
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After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BCTJ-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He’s now left his Scottish homelands and took up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.