This August, Microsoft Japan took on an experiment, called the “Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019” in which they trialed the 4-day work week for their entire workforce. Around 2300 employees were given five Fridays off with no reduction in salary and no days taken off of their annual leave. Naturally, the experiment proved to be a huge success with the increased productivity of almost 40 percent and greater employee satisfaction (92.1 percent of employees reported that they liked the shorter week). “Work a short time, rest well and learn a lot. It’s necessary to have an environment that allows you to feel your purpose in life and make a greater impact at work. I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20 percent less working time,” said Microsoft Japan president and CEO Takuya Hirano.
The 5-day workweek is deeply entrenched into our work culture globally, although studies keep proving over and over again that they’re not as efficient as shorter workweeks. In the late 18th century, working 10-16 hours was considered normal, as factories “needed” to be run 24/7. It was only until Welsh activist and advocate for shorter workdays Robert Owen came up with the slogan “Eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.” Today, no one bats an eye for the 8-hours a day, 5 days a week job – it is the new “normal.” However, more and more companies and scientists are reconsidering what is normal, including Microsoft Japan. As the International Labour Organization back in 2018 reported: “The best available empirical evidence shows that reducing full-time working hours can lead to numerous positive outcomes for workers, enterprises, and society as a whole: fewer occupational health problems and reduced health care costs; more and better jobs; better work-life balance; and more satisfied, motivated, productive employees resulting in more sustainable enterprises. In addition, shorter working hours can even make an important contribution to the “greening” of economies because the more we work, the greater our “carbon footprint”; so, cutting back on the number of days that we work – and therefore the number of times that we have to commute from our homes to our workplaces – is bound to have a positive impact on the environment as well.”
It may come as no surprise that the productivity of employees increased almost by 40 percent
To fit into the 4-day workweek, many meetings in Microsoft Japan were shortened, conducted remotely or cut altogether. Not only did the 3-day weekend trial result in a 39.9 percent increase in productivity, but employees took 25.4 percent less time off, electricity use was cut down by 23.1 percent and 58.7 percent fewer pages were printed. This means only one thing – not only the long weekends are better for employees and their wellbeing, but it’s also better for the environment itself, as fewer resources are being used.