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This Firm Cut Its Workweek to 4 Days, With Surprising Results

Microsoft Japan's monthlong experiment saw a nearly 40% boost in productivity
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 4, 2019 9:35 AM CST
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Stock photo.   (Getty Images/nortonrsx)

(Newser) – Japanese employees are known for their work ethic, to the point where it can often be excessive: As CNBC notes, there's even a term there—"karoshi," or "death by overwork"—that has cropped up due to workers dying on the job. Yet Fox News reports this hardworking nation is among the least productive G7 nations, which makes the latest workplace experiment out of Microsoft Japan even more intriguing. Mashable reports that for five consecutive Fridays in August, employees at Microsoft Japan were given the day off, with no loss of wages or PTO. This "Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019" initiative had some surprising results, the most notable one being that the company saw a 39.2% spike in productivity, compared with the same period in 2018, per CNN. A big part of the reason for the better output: Workers were forced to be more efficient with their time.

That meant, among other things, that time-suck meetings were shortened, or cut altogether. Plus, not counting the Fridays off, workers took about 25% less time off during that period. There were environmental benefits, too: Electricity use was slashed by more than 23%, and paper usage also dropped, by nearly 60%. It's probably no surprise that the vast majority (92%) gave a thumbs-up to the experiment. "It's necessary to have an environment that allows you to feel your purpose in life and make a greater impact at work," CEO Takuya Hirano told the Mainichi before the initiative began. "I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20% less working time." Bloomberg notes Japan has been trying to address its overwork problem, including via a law put into place earlier this year that, with some exceptions, limits overtime to 45 hours a month. (Read more Microsoft stories.)

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