For those of you who are dreaming of a shorter work week, there is new evidence to suggest that just four days in the office will benefit employers and employees.
Just ask Microsoft, which tested a shorter work week in Japan and gave workers in Tokyo every Friday in August. The company gave employees special paid leave to account for their fifth day, but also subsidized expenses that employees have incurred for volunteering, attending or family trips. The result: Productivity increased 40%, according to the software manufacturer.
Employees packed more efficiency in their 32-hour weeks by conducting more external conference calls, while also printing far less material in the office ̵
Business practices that work in one country may not necessarily be effective elsewhere, with Japanese workers in particular known for their work ethic from nose to mill. Some companies – in the US and abroad – try four more days.
A June 2019 report from the Society for Human Resource Management said that 15% of more than 2,700 US companies and organizations now surveyed offer a four-day work week alternative to employees, up from 12% in 2017.  "Although four days of work week is still relatively uncommon, organizations that have implemented them do not report any reductions in productivity or revenue as a result," the report states.
In New Zealand, a manager of wills and real estate called the Perpetual Guardian's 230 employees. Andrew Barnes, the founder of Perpetual Guardian, said the experiment made employees 20% more productive, even though their earnings and profits remain unchanged. An independent analysis from Auckland University of Technology found that Perpetual Guardian employees were more concerned with tasks during their work days.
"Business leaders are conditioned to believe that long working hours equals working hard," Barnes said. "It's very difficult to get a whole generation of business executives to think that the way we've actually done that pretty much our entire career is actually wrong."
Simply Business, a UK customer center, switched its 500 employees to a four-day trial on a trial basis in September. The move will require employees to be 20% more productive during their 32-hour work week, company officials told The Guardian.
The work culture in Japan emphasizes teamwork from employees across departments and leadership approval in almost every decision, said Daisuke Ugaeri, a visiting fellow at Columbia University & # 39; s Center on Japanese Economy and Business. The Japanese government is beginning to change working hours, but ten years ago, workers had startling hours, Ugaeri said.
"We want to work perfectly," Ugaeri said. "Sometimes it's too much work, so it takes more time to provide adequate quality, and sometimes we need a lot of time to make decisions because we have to get consensus from many departments and leaders."
Microsoft officials in Japan said their data revealed some obstacles to implementing a four-day work week more extensively, including some pushback from executives and uneven results depending on the department.
But Barnes, who writes a book about four-day working weeks, is convinced that the strategy can work in any company, regardless of size, industry or location. The biggest obstacle for US companies adopting a four-day working week on a large scale is mostly psychological, he said.
"At the heart of this is productivity, and if we can get more productivity from something that balances work and life, it's a win-win-win," he said, citing employers, workers and their families as winners . "All the evidence suggests that productivity will either stay steady or go up."