Microsoft experimented with shorter work weeks at its Japan offices and found that a four-day work week not only made employees happier, but also boosted productivity.
The project, called Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019, involved giving 2,300 employees three-day weekends for the full month of August.
According to Microsoft Japan, productivity rose by 39.9% after cutting work hours. The tech giant reported a significant fall in costs, with 23.1% less electricity used and 58.7% fewer pages printed over the period.
In addition to cutting the work week to four days, Microsoft Japan also urged employees to limit the duration of meetings to 30 minutes and make “full use of Microsoft’s collaboration tool, ‘Microsoft Teams’.”
Most employees – 92% – said they liked the shorter week.
“Work a short time, rest well and learn a lot,” Microsoft Japan president and CEO Takuya Hirano said in a statement to Microsoft Japan’s website. “I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20% less working time.”
A Microsoft spokesperson was quoted by The Guardian as saying:
“In the spirit of a growth mindset, we are always looking for new ways to innovate and leverage our own technology to improve the experience for our employees around the globe,”
While Microsoft isn’t the first company to trial a 4-day work week, it’s the first time such an influential company in the business world has experimented the idea.
Some organizations and schools in Europe and Oceania have already introduced four-day weeks.
Last year, the New Zealand trust management firm Perpetual Guardian launched a trial four-day work week for 240 workers of its workers. Employees at the firm worked 30 hours a week but were paid for 37.5 hours. The company said the experiment was an unmitigated success, with the majority (78%) of employees saying it improved work-life balance. Perpetual Guardian went on to turn the four-day week experiment into company policy.