People in Japan are known for their extreme work culture, but working around the clock is harmful for both the mental and physical health of many employees. The country has even coined its own term for the issue, karoshi, which translates as “death by overwork.” That’s why Microsoft Japan decided to experiment by introducing the Work Life Choice Challenge, giving its 2,300 employees a reduced, 4-day work week (every Friday off) for the entire month of August 2019. This means 3-day weekends, every weekend.
Microsoft’s initiative aimed to promote a healthier work-life balance, but the results showed astounding improvements in many areas of the business. Working fewer hours meant that Microsoft employees were getting more done during the hours they did work—the tech company recorded a 39.9% jump in productivity levels. Employees also took 25.4% fewer days off during the month, and since the office was closed for one more day a week, Microsoft saw a fall in costs too—staff printed 58.7% fewer pages, and used 23.1% less electricity.
The experiment also encouraged capping meeting at 30 minutes and an increase in remote conferences, so employees could work from home. By the end of the trail, 92.1% of Microsoft employees said they preferred the four-day work week. The company is now planning a similar work-life balance scheme this winter, aimed at encouraging greater flexible working.