Microsoft Japan was able to boost their productivity by 40% through implementing a trial run of a 4-day work week. The project was unique because the Japanese work environment has been notorious for requiring long hours and giving less days off. With the success of the experiment, Microsoft could begin a dramatic shift in the Japanese work culture.
When it comes to work-life balance, Japan doesn’t do so well. The country consistently scores really low when employee satisfaction in the developed world is assessed. It’s normal to have several after-hours meetings numerous times a week, and instead of attempting to fix the problem, many employees shrug it off and believe “it can’t be helped.” Microsoft Japan, however, proved this wrong; the culture can shift towards a healthier one.
In August, the company began a “working reform project” called the “Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019.” For the whole month, Microsoft Japan implemented a work week with a three-day weekend. All 2,300 employees had Friday off on top of Saturday and Sunday. The additional days off were not counted as vacation time, so employees didn’t have to worry about that.
The company saw incredible results after implementing the project. In terms of costs, they were able to cut down so much: employees took 25.4% fewer days off, used 58.7% less paper, and used 23.1% less electricity because the office was closed an additional day. On average, employee productivity went up by 39.9%--meaning that more work was done when the new schedule was implemented.
The positive shift was thanks to the change in meeting norms. Because there are only four days to get everything done, unnecessary meetings were cut out or replaced with virtual conference calls. Everyone worked harder to make sure that all tasks are done and all deadlines are met because of the time constraint, and workers came back to the office more rejuvenated thanks to the extra day off.
92.1% of employees enjoyed the four-day work week. Due to the success, Microsoft Japan plans on implementing it again next summer, and hopefully, they will be able to make the shift permanent. With such a big company making a change in the work culture, other Japanese offices may follow suit in the future.