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04 November 2019 10:34

Microsoft Corporation Workweek and weekend Productivity

Microsoft Japan trials 4-day work week, productivity boosted by 40%

Microsoft Japan trialed a four-day workweek over the summer and saw positive results in productivity and employee satisfaction. The company's Tokyo headquarters gave workers every Friday in August off as a form of "special paid leave." Microsoft Japan said productivity in August increased by 40%, and 92% of employees said they were happy with the program by the end of its run. The program has made waves in Japan, which has some of thelongest working hours in the world and lowest rates of productivity among G-7 nations. Employees who work less might actually be working smarter, according to Microsoft Japan. The company trialed a four-day workweek this summer as part of its Work-Life Choice Challenge.

The project allowed employees at its Tokyo headquarters to have Fridays off in August, and they were given "special paid leave" in exchange. The company also implemented a "support program" for its employees, which included travel-related expenses and workshops, as part of the short-term trial. "'Work-Life Choice' aims to create an environment where each employee can choose a diverse and flexible way of working according to the circumstances of their work and life," Microsoft Japan wrote in April when it announced the project. Microsoft announced last week that the program saw a number of interesting results compared to the year prior, including: In addition, the company also said that productivity rose by roughly 40%, with 92% of employees saying they were happy with the program by the end of its run. The program has made waves in Japan, which has some of the longest working hours in the world.

According to a 2016 government study, nearly one in four Japanese companies require employees to work a staggering 80 hours of overtime per month, CNBC reported. And those overtime hours do not necessarily result in better work. According to The Japan Times, a Japanese labor ministry survey revealed that the number of major privately-held companies in 2018 that implemented a four-day workweek rose to 6.9% - more than double the number of businesses with a four-day workweek from a decade ago. In New Zealand, a company called Perpetual Guardian trialed the four-day workweek and noticed its staff were happier, more creative, more punctual, and more productive. Economists have recently argued that a four-day workweek allows employees to focus their attention more effectively, and create a better sense of work-life balance.

2020 Democrat Bernie Sanders even said in October that a shorter workweek was an idea that his campaign was investigating in order to improve the wellbeing of American workers. Microsoft Japan tested a four-day workweek 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. Microsoft's "Work Life Choice Challenge," held this August, saw the firm close its doors on Fridays and give its 2,300 employees three-day weekends for the full month to assess the merits of a reduced workweek. Over that period, the firm saw productivity, as measured by sales per employee, rise 39.9% compared with August 2018.

That boon was thanks in part, Microsoft said, to meetings capped at 30 minutes and an increase in remote conferences. The experiment, which also incorporated self-development and family wellness schemes, recorded largely positive feedback from employees, too, with 92.1% saying they liked the four-day workweek, according to the firm. Microsoft Japan says its now planning to conduct a similar work-life challenge this winter, aimed at encouraging greater flexible working. 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, a New Zealand firm dubbed its two-month trial of a four-day workweek a success in improving work-life balance, while Virgin founder Richard Branson regularly outlines its merits for boosting happiness.

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The impacts of overwork are felt acutely in Japan, which is known from having some of the world's longest working hours. According to a 2016 government study, almost a quarter of Japanese companies require employees to work more than 80 hours overtime a month. Japan has even coined its own term for the extreme culture, "karoshi," which translates as "death by overwork." Microsoft Japan has announced the results of its 4-day work week trial, and it will shock no-one to know the experiment was hugely popular with the company's employees. What may surprise people is that the shortened week increased productivity by almost 40 percent — thanks in part to shorter, more efficient meetings. This August, Microsoft Japan trialed a 4-day work week for its entire workforce, calling the project the "Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019". Approximately 2300 employees were given 5 Fridays off, with no reduction in salary and no days taken out of their annual leave. Further, The Mainichi reported that Microsoft Japan also planned to subsidise employees' family vacations or further education by up to ¥100,000. It's necessary to have an environment that allows you to feel your purpose in life and make a greater impact at work," said Microsoft Japan president and CEO Takuya Hirano. But considering the results of Microsoft Japan's experiment, it may be time to overhaul the system. As reported by Nikkei xTECH (via SoraNews24), Microsoft Japan's 3-day weekend trial resulted in an incredible 39.9 percent increase in productivity. This was partially attributed to the shortened work week meaning employees had to be more economical and efficient with their time. Employees took 25.4 percent less time off during the trial, and the benefits didn't end there either. As Microsoft Japan's offices were empty for 5 extra days, electricity use was down 23.1 percent. Employees also printed 58.7 percent fewer pages, meaning a shorter work week could be good for both people and the environment. Employees in customer-facing roles did state it was hard to relax on their Fridays off with the rest of the working world continuing on apace. But overall the extra day off was a big hit, with 92.1 percent of employees saying they liked the shorter week. Clearly, the only solution is to simply implement 4-day work weeks everywhere. This isn't the first time it's been demonstrated that shorter work hours have a positive effect on happiness and productivity. New Zealand firm Perpetual Guardian switched to a permanent 2-day work week in 2018, following a 2-month trial that saw productivity increase by 20 percent. The company's employees also reported a significant improvement in work-life balance, and like Microsoft Japan, electricity bills were reduced and meetings shortened. Numerous companies around the world have also held similar trials to favourable results, with a 2018 report from the International Labour Organisation finding that shorter hours generally result in higher productivity. The push for a shortened work week has gained momentum in recent years, with significant support from labour unions. However, the 4-day work week also comes with new challenges such as keeping up with customers and competition. Microsoft Japan reportedly plans to repeat its 4-day work week experiment next summer, and possibly expand it to other times as well. Labor productivity at Microsoft Japan jumped almost 40 per cent in August this year - thanks to an initiative that saw all workers take a three day weekend... As part of the 'Work Life Choice Challenge', offices were closed for five Fridays in August, with some 2300 employees taking special paid leave. Results from a study - commissioned and released by the company this week - showed a massive 39.9 per cent jump in workers' productivity over the time. On top of taking Fridays, the results showed workers were also more inclined to take their already-provided paid vacation leave. The company says electricity consumption dropped some 23 per cent, compared to the same time previous year, while the number of pages printed dropped nearly 60 per cent. Following the relative success of the trial, Microsoft says it's now going to implement a 'winter' version. the limited office hours meant reduced numbers of face-to-face meetings. The results are a start for a country that's facing an 'over work' issue so big... When The Feed met him in 2018, he said calls to the group's hotline had jumped from a few hundred in 2006, to 5000 that year. Matsuri took her own life on Christmas Day. In the month leading up to her death, she'd worked more than 100 hours of overtime. In July 2018, Japan introduced legislation that capped overtime at 100 extra hours a month. That number is still 20 hours more than what the government itself says is at risk of 'karoshi' - and for people like Makoto, that's not enough real change. As The Feed found when it went to Japan last year - overworking can also have a significant impact on relationships. As some young office workers told The Feed, dating wasn't an option, because there simply wasn't enough hours in the day. Microsoft Japan recently went through a trial of a 4-day work week, with the results of the experiment showing that there was a huge 40% increase in productivity. The 40% increase in productivity was mostly through shorter, more efficient meetings which saw all 2300 staff at Microsoft Japan taking 5 Fridays off in a row with the same salary, and no days removed from their annual leave. Microsoft Japan named the project the "Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019". Microsoft Japan president and CEO Takuya Hirano said: "Work a short time, rest well and learn a lot. It's necessary to have an environment that allows you to feel your purpose in life and make a greater impact at work. I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20 percent less working time".