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Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Microsoft Japan has tried the four-day work week. Result: a considerable productivity gain


As part of an experiment to determine whether extended weekends could help increase average productivity and employee well-being, Microsoft Japan closed its offices every Friday in August 2019. Workers thus benefited from three-day weekends for one month, additional paid day off. At the end of a week under this new schedule, the motivation and the well-being of the employees were already on the rise.

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Logic would make you think that with one less day of work each week, in the end, less work will be done overall, but the reality is more complex (and interesting) than that ... Indeed, as part of this experience, productivity had increased by almost 40%, largely offsetting the missing day in terms of amount of work.

This proves that the supporters of the four-day workweek could be right, even in Japan, a country where, as we recall, the majority of workers are culturally very involved in their professional life, in all fields.

Last Thursday, Microsoft Japan released a report showing the results of the experiment conducted in August. In addition to the extra days off, the office also set a 30-minute time limit for meetings and encouraged employees to communicate online rather than face-to-face whenever possible.

Increased sales and improved employee satisfaction

Sales per employee increased 39.9% over the trial compared to August 2018, and a satisfaction survey found that 92.1% of workers preferred to move to a four-day work week. The questions asked also concerned self-development programs and family welfare.

The closing of the office on Friday also had a positive impact on the company's carbon footprint: Microsoft Japan recorded a 23.1% drop in electricity consumption and 58.7% in the number of pages printed by its employees. This was possible thanks to new methods of automating tasks, always with the aim of increasing productivity and well-being.

As IT automation today takes on more and more of the tasks normally handled by humans, entrepreneurs around the world have begun to think about what this could mean for the future of work. Many companies are taking the plunge by opting for innovative solutions.

At the root of the idea that a shortened week would lead to a significant overall productivity gain, there are some great entrepreneurs, including Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin, and Larry Page, co-founder of Google. Both had suggested shortening the work week to contribute to the well-being of employees and their motivation.

Moreover, Microsoft Japan is not the first company to have put the theory to the test. Indeed, in 2018, a legal documentation company in New Zealand had experienced this : the trial, which lasted two months, went so well that the leaders said they wanted to preserve this operation.

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