Microsoft Japan Says Four-Day Work Week Boosted Productivity 40%

Matsuri Takahashi mother

In August 2019, Microsoft Japan tried a 4-day work and 3-day weekend system for a month without any deduction in salary.

The tech giant said in a statement that it introduced the "Work Life Choice Challenge" this past August in its Japanese offices, in which employees worked just four days each week.

This has unsurprisingly been jumped on by opposition parties as unrealistic, but before you look at Microsoft's experiment and conclude it's actually pretty reasonable, it's important to recognise that Japan is a very different country with some of the longest working hours in the world.

Economists have recently argued that a four-day workweek allows employees to focus their attention more effectively, and create a better sense of work-life balance.

In addition to reducing working hours, managers urged staff to cut down on the time they spent in meetings and responding to emails.

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Since the 1970s, the workweek has stopped shrinking despite sharp gains in worker productivity, McDonnell said. These employees were compensated with "special paid leave".

A 2017 survey suggested almost a quarter of Japanese companies had employees working more than 80 hours overtime a month, often unpaid. The number of pages printed decreased by 58.7%, while electricity consumption was down by 23.1% compared with August 2018, the company said.

"At the heart of this is productivity and, if we can get enhanced productivity from something that delivers work-life balance, it's a win-win-win", he said, citing employers, workers and their families as winners.

In 2017, a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report found that from 1987 to 2015, productivity rose by as much as 5% annually in industry sectors from information to manufacturing and retail - but compensation never grew by more than 2% in each year of that same period. At that time, The Post reported, none of the 2020 Democratic president candidates had embraced the four-day workweek, even though they have backed other ambitious ideas, such as universal basic income or a federal jobs guarantee. The move will require employees to be 20% more productive during their 32 hour workweek, company officials told The Guardian.

There were also savings from spending less time at work.

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