Microsoft Japan tested a four-day work week and found the experiment as a huge boon to employee productivity.
The tech giant recorded an almost 40% jump in productivity levels after cutting working hours as part of a larger project to promote healthier work-life balance.
Microsoft's "Work Life Choice Challenge", held in August, saw the company shut its doors on Fridays and give its 2,300 employees three days of weekends throughout the month to assess the benefits of a reduced work week.
During that time, the company saw productivity, as measured by sales per employee, increase 39.9% compared to August 201[ads1]8. This blessing was partially thanks, Microsoft said, to 30-minute meetings and an increase in remote control conferences. Meanwhile, the company saw a cost drop, with 23.1% less power used and 58.7% fewer pages printed during the period.
The experiment, which also incorporated self-development and family welfare schemes, recorded largely positive feedback from employees, also, with 92.1% saying they enjoyed the four-day work week, according to the company.
Microsoft Japan states that it is now planning to face a similar work-life challenge this winter, with the aim of encouraging more flexible work.
The notion of a four-day work week has gained traction, as advocates highlight the potential benefits of reducing stress and preventing overtime. In 2018, a New Zealand company called the two-month study of a four-day work week a success in improving work-life balance, while Virgin founder Richard Branson regularly outlines benefits to increase happiness.
The effects of overtime are felt acutely in Japan, which is known to have some of the world's longest working hours. According to a 2016 government study, nearly a quarter of Japanese companies require employees to work more than 80 hours of overtime a month. Japan has even created its own term for the extreme culture, "karoshi," which translates as "death by overtime."