Who’s ready for the weekend? Microsoft Japan employees just won the jackpot this summer as the company started a four-day workweek scheme coupled with the normal five-day paycheck. And the company got what it wanted – results showed that productivity, measured by sales per employee, went up by 40%.
Microsoft Japan’s “Work Life Choice Challenge 2019 Summer” gave around 2,300 employees five Fridays off with no reduction in salary and no days taken off of their annual leave. In return, employees eager for the three-day weekend rewarded the company with better work performances, and less time off for breaks.
In addition to the productivity boost, Microsoft Japan recorded benefits of the new work schedule to the company as well. There was a noted rise in efficiency in several areas, such as a decrease in electricity costs by 23%, as well as a 60% drop in printed materials.
A shorter workweek also entailed improvement in time management. Meetings, in particular, were either cut altogether, conducted remotely, or shortened from an hour to 30 minutes, which became the new standard for almost half of all company meetings.
Such sessions were also capped to five participants, in a move to prevent tying up members from the same team. Microsoft Japan urged the use of alternative collaborative channels, such as the company’s Microsoft Teams, to get the best use of people’s time and efforts.
Perhaps the best gauge of the success of the scheme is a rise in employee’s happiness, with more than 90 percent of staff indicating the favorable impact of the adjustments. Greater employee satisfaction was recorded at 92.1%, with staff saying that they liked the shorter week at the office.
According to Microsoft Japan president and Chief Executive Officer Takuya Hirano, “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.”
The new work plan follows the example set by Perpetual Guardian, a trust management company in New Zealand. In 2018, the company paid its employees a regular salary for a four day work week, and later reported a gain in employee productivity by 20%, and an increase in employee work-life balance by 45%.
Supervisors stated a noticeable improvement in staff work, including enhanced creativity, better attendance, punctuality, shorter breaks, and maximized work hours. The successful trial resulted in a permanent change in company policy. A number of other companies have also been exploring the viability of a four-day work week.
While doubling the productivity indicator set by the Perpetual Guardian, Microsoft Japan is eager to continue the pilot work program. The company stated, “In the spirit of a growth mindset, we are always looking for new ways to innovate and leverage our own technology to improve the experience for our employees around the globe.”
The trial to be held in the winter, however, will not provide employees with special paid leave. Instead, the program aims to encourage work independence, flexibility, shorter and less frequent face-to-face meetings, capitalized use of chat and collaboration tools, as well as better use of paid vacations and year-end holidays.
The shorter work week is understandably an exciting prospect for any employee, and is being increasingly explored as a better option to drive productivity. Advancements in technology has also improved work flexibility. Benefits from changes in the work place include better work-life balance, motivated and productive employees, improved operational costs and more sustainable businesses, reduced use of natural resources, and fewer occupational health problems and reduced health care costs.
In effect, introducing altering traditional work models is not only a boon to productivity and employee well-being, but provides positive outcomes for the company, the environment, and society as a whole.