News Article

Microsoft Four-day workweek experiment boosted productivity by 40%

Microsoft Corp.’s Japan division noticed that staff performance increased by about 40% in an unusual organisational study to test a four-day work system, the firm said.

In August, 2,300 typical office staff were engaged in the experiment.

Amid calls for increased workforce productivity in a country known to have extended hours of work, the company undertook the trial to see if it would raise the output of workers.

Microsoft Japan Co., which published an experiment study last week, made a unique paid vacation for all its daily workers in the country every Friday in August.

To increase productivity, management asked workers to communicate more frequently through an online chat tool rather than having meetings and sending emails.

In practice, even when they had actual sessions, staff were asked to complete them within 30 minutes and to limit the number of people to a total of five.

As a result, the test saw an increase in sales per employee by 39.9 million and a decrease in the amount of paper used for printing papers or used in copying machines and electricity consumption by 58.7 per cent and 23.1 per cent compared to August last year.

Approximately 92 per cent of workers looked positively at the four-day workweek, the report showed.

It didn’t reveal the total amount of overtime working over the era, but the spokesperson said it didn’t go up.

He said Microsoft Japan is not planning to make a permanent fixture for four-day workweeks, but from time to time it can use them.

In an attempt to remove Japan’s infamous long-time corporate culture, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration has been pushing for work-style changes to be significant.

According to the Japan Output Center, a study body based in Tokyo, Japan’s hourly labour output was estimated at 4,733 yen ($47.5) in 2017, which implies it placed 20th among the 36 OECD countries.

While it is doubtful that four-day days would ever become popular in Japan, a recent poll showed a vast majority of Japanese employees favourably consider the notion of a four-day week program.

80 per cent of 1,000 respondents responded positively about the four-day workweek model in an online poll by internet service provider Biglobe Inc. in July.

Asked what day if a four-day week was implemented they would like to take off, 51 per cent answered Wednesday.

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