Microsoft's Japanese division found that reducing the work week to four days during the month of August led to an increase in productivity and a decrease in costs. Sales per employee increased by 40 percent compared to the same period last year as a result of the company's "Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019", reports Bloomberg .
Microsoft is not the only organization to explore the idea of a shorter work week. In New Zealand, one trust management company tried a four-day work week over two months last year and found that staff focus improved and stress reduced. In the United Kingdom, a London-based research foundation investigated plans to give workers Friday off without pay, but deleted the idea because of its complexity. A four-day working week was also the focus of a recent study commissioned by the UK Labor Party.
Microsoft trial is particularly interesting in connection with Japan's notorious long working hours, says Bloomberg who notes that the country is struggling with a labor shortage as well as a aging population. Microsoft today employs 2,300 people in the country according to The Guardian who all got five Fridays in August without any pay cut.
The lawsuit, which also included limiting meetings to just 30 minutes, resulted in cost savings for Microsoft. Electricity use fell by 23 per cent and paper pressure fell by 59 per cent. Employees were encouraged to use tools such as Microsoft Teams to communicate rather than hold meetings, and 92 percent of employees reported being satisfied with the reduced hours.
Despite seeming to have found great success with the pilot program, The Guardian states that it is unclear whether the initiative will be repeated in the long term. Bloomberg reports that later this year, Microsoft Japan will undertake another challenge in the workplace and encourage employees to take time off "in a more flexible and smarter way." However, the company has yet to announce any similar plans for the US workforce that handles core development on many of the products, including Windows, Office and Azure.