Published on Nov 11, 2019

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Microsoft Japan tested a four-day work week and has found the experiment a huge boon to employee productivity.



The tech giant recorded an almost 40% jump in productivity levels after cutting its work hours as part of a wider project to promote healthier work-life balance.

The experiment called Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019, gave its entire 2,300-person Japan workforce five Fridays off in a row without decreasing pay. Over that period, the firm saw productivity, as measured by sales per employee, rise 39.9% compared with August 2018.

Microsoft Japan’s website stated that part of productivity increase was due to meetings being capped at 30 minutes and an increase in remote conferences. Meanwhile, the firm saw a fall in costs, with 23.1% less electricity used and 58.7% fewer pages printed over the period.

“Work a short time, rest well and learn a lot,” Microsoft Japan president and Chief Executive Takuya Hirano said in the statement. “I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20% less working time.”

In addition to the increased productivity, employees took 25% less time off during the trial and electricity use was down 23% in the office with the additional day off per week. Employees printed 59% fewer pages of paper during the trial. The vast majority of employees – 92% – said they liked the shorter week.

The notion of a four-day workweek has been gaining traction as advocates highlight its possible benefits in reducing stress and preventing overwork. In 2018, New Zealand firm, Perpetual Guardian, dubbed its two-month trial of a four-day workweek a success in improving work-life balance.

Workers have often said they could be more productive with less time in the office. A survey of more than 2000 staff by HR consulting firm Robert Half found 66% of workers said they wanted to work less than five days a week.

Another experiment published by the Harvard Business Review shows decreasing average work hours from 8 to 6 a day, increased productivity.


See Microsoft Japan Co’s report and media release.

See media release by HR consulting firm Robert Half.

See report published by the Harvard Business Review.