Tuesday 5 November 2019
Will less really mean more? Photo: Unsplash

Microsoft in Japan have proved that a four-day workweek has helped boost productivity, thanks to a programme in the summer called the “Work Life Choice Challenge”. The initiative saw the organisation closing its offices every Friday in August 2018 and gave all employees an extra day off each week. The results?

Productivity, measured by sales per employee, went up by 40%, when compared to the same period in the past year, based on the company’s report. The programme also urged employees to cut down on time spent on meetings and emails, with 30 minutes being the maximum for the former. This change heavily affected the workers in Japan, as 92.1% of Microsoft’s 2,280 employees said they were satisfied by the new measures.

Microsoft’s operating costs were also impacted by the change, with 23.1% less electricity used and 58.7% fewer pages printed over the period. Due to the rapid rise in productivity, the firm will conduct another identical experiment in Japan, later this year. Additionally, they also plans to ask employees to come up with new measures to improve work-life balance and efficiency.

The benefits of a four-day workweek: Less is more

However, the four-day workweek has been around for a while now. Last year, Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand-based estate management firm dealing in wills, trusts and estate management, implemented a similar system.

In March and April 2018, the firm reduced their their workweek from 40 hours to 32, for all of its 240 employees, while still paying the same salaries as a five-day workweek. Academics were also called in to study the trial before, during and after its implementation, collecting qualitative and quantitative data.

Jarrod Haar, professor of human resource management at Auckland University of Technology, discovered job and life satisfaction increased, with employees performing better in their jobs and enjoying them more than before the experiment. In November last year, just over half (54%) of staff felt they could effectively balance their work and home commitments. However, this number jumped to 78% following the new programme.

As a result of the trial, staff stress levels decreased by seven points across the board, while stimulation, commitment and a sense of empowerment at work all improved significantly, with overall life satisfaction increasing by five points. However, it remains to be seen if all global organisations would be ready to take this step and implement four-day workweeks in a bid to boost work-life balance.

Source: CNN and The Guardian.

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