Microsoft tested out a four-day work-week in its Japan offices and found as a result employees were not only happier but also significantly more productive.
For the month of August, Microsoft Japan experimented with a new project called Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019, giving its entire 2,300-person workforce five Fridays off in a row without decreasing pay.
The shortened weeks led to more efficient meetings, happier workers and boosted productivity by a staggering 40%, the company concluded at the end of the trial. As part of the program, the company had also planned to provide financial support of up to 100,000 yen (about $914) for employees to go on family trips or develop new skills.
“Work a short time, rest well and learn a lot,” Microsoft Japan president and CEO Takuya Hirano said in a statement to Microsoft Japan’s website. “I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20% less working time.”
Salaries will be unaffected in this scheme. Takuya Hirano, president, and CEO of Microsoft Japan added.
The company also reduced the amount of time spent in meetings as part of the project by implementing a 30-minute time limit for meetings and encouraging remote communication.
In addition to the increased productivity, employees took 25% less time off during the trial and electricity use was down 23% in the office with the additional day off per week. Employees printed 59% fewer pages of paper during the trial. The vast majority of employees – 92% – said they liked the shorter week. The effects were widespread. More than 90% of Microsoft’s 2300 employees in Japan later said they were impacted by the new measures, according to the company.
Microsoft, for its part, says it will conduct another experiment in Japan later this year. It plans to ask employees to come up with new measures to improve work-life balance and efficiency, and will also ask other companies to join the initiative.