Posted on Nov 05, 2019

Like any commercial company, Microsoft strives to maintain high productivity personnel. But a curious experiment conducted by its Japanese office unexpectedly showed that a shorter workweek could positively affect productivity.

In August 2019, Microsoft Japan conducted an experiment in which employees had a three-day weekend for one month. Microsoft made Friday a day-off with wages maintenance. The experiment was made within its -Life Choice Challenge.

It turned out that with a 4-day workweek the employees became more productive, although they worked less.

Such results were predictable. People became happier and amount of days-off fell by 25.4% during the month. But more importantly, the workweek was shorter by 20%, but employee’s productivity increased by 39.9%. Fewer meetings were held and they became shorter: often over the network, rather than face to face.

Moreover, Microsoft found an additional advantage of the four-day workweek: the amount of paper used in the office decreased by 58% and the use of electricity – by 23%.

In general, the project received 92.1% approval from employees – they were satisfied and had done more work tasks over a shorter workweek.

The Microsoft experiment has caused great resonance in Japan, where many people work overtime (up to 80 hours per month). 2300 employees took part in the test. And Microsoft is going to repeat it next summer.

In Japan, the problem of chronic working long hours is acute. There is even a special term for death in the workplace – karoshi.

The problem has been lasting from the post-war years. Then the practice of bonuses for working overtime was popular and had been lingering on for a long time. Japanese law allowed the company to agree with an employee on exceeding of an 8-hour workday.

A study, conducted in 2016 with 100,000 Japanese participants, showed that more than 20% of them worked over 80 hours a week. About 170 people died from working overtime in 2017.

The Japanese government is starting to tackle the problem. Since April 2019, the country has a law in effect that limits working hours: 45 hours per month or 360 hours per year.

Moreover, the reduction in working hours has been at the top of many discussions recently.

For example, The International Labor Organization has proposed to impose the four-day working week recently. The experts are sure, that reducing working time would have benefits both for employees and employers.

The shorter working week would allow employees to improve health and avoid such illnesses as cardiovascular diseases, problems with abdominal distension, sexual dysfunction, and anxiety disorders.

Reducing working hours would enable people to spend more time with their family members, and diminish stress level. For an employer, the four-day week also will be economically beneficial. It would help to avoid staffing cuts in case of an economic crisis and stabilize the company.

Experts Claim a 4-Day Working Week Switch

And although this approach may not always give good results as it has been in Japan, but surely many people would be happy to try a 4-day workweek at their workplaces with wage maintenance.

As for journalist, there is the only rule in my life: “Do, what you can, and always move on”. And this postulate I try to get across to readers.