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Microsoft Japan jumped on the 4-day workweek wagon, and it worked out

Microsoft Japan jumped on the 4-day workweek wagon, and it worked out
[Photo: Rafael Idrovo Espinoza/Unsplash]

Yet another company has joined the ranks of businesses praising the four-day workweek: Microsoft Japan.

Its “Work-Life Choice Challenge” took place in August 2019, during which all workers were “challenged to work in a short time, take a rest, and learn well.” Microsoft Japan is one of a steady stream of companies to test-run short weeks this year, including Shake Shack.

This being Japan, Microsoft did not stop at simply trimming schedules; it delved deeply into how employees would spend their newfound free time. The program encouraged employees to devote time off to volunteering, professional development, and family time (“Waku Waku Life”) and provided some subsidies for activities such as course tuition, family travel, and athletics. Microsoft also gathered employee ideas about how, specifically, one might spend time with family.

The results were startling: a whopping 39.9% increase in sales compared to the same month last year, along with unexpected efficiencies, such as a 23% reduction in electricity usage and 58.7 % fewer pages printed, partially due to the telecommuting initiative run during the same period. Notably, nearly everyone liked the changes: 92.1% of employees approved of short weeks, and 97% of employees liked the extra time for family and self-development. A mere 83% enjoyed the volunteering options.

Although over half of workers worldwide would prefer three- or four-day workweeks, implementation of the schedule has been rocky, with numerous midsized organizations trying and abandoning short weeks, including Wellcome Trust and, back in 2011, the state of Utah. Most companies that do maintain four-day weeks split staff on Fridays and Mondays so their doors remain open five days a week.

Microsoft is set to implement its program in August 2020.

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