Lately, large companies in the technology sector are experimenting with solutions to work to increase the productivity of their employees and guarantee a more balanced lifestyle. One of the most recurrent solutions was to reduce the number of weekly working days by adopting the long weekend. In August, with the “Work-Life Choice Challenge 2019 Summer”, Microsoft Japan conducted an experiment on 2,300 people working only four days a week without changing the economic treatment of employees to verify the increase in the productivity rate to assess any merits and defects of this choice.

As emerges from the report, Microsoft Japan found a 40% increase in productivity compared to the same period of the previous year (2018) and most of them expressed their enthusiasm for having led a more balanced lifestyle as work was not absorbent with respect to private life.

During the experimentation:

  1. online meetings were preferred and encouraged;
  2. the maximum meeting time has been reduced to 30 minutes;
  3. the office was closed every Friday throughout the trial.

At the end of the experiment, it was found that:

  1. 92% of the workers involved hope that the tried solution will be definitively adopted;
  2. 23% less electricity consumption;
  3. 58% less consumption for prints and photocopies;
  4. 40% more than productivity (the percentage is based on sales per employee);
  5. the company participated in any travel expenses and organized leisure workshops.

With this experiment, Microsoft demonstrated that “working less and producing more” can be a solution that is not only feasible but convenient for both sides of the employment relationship. All the workers reported that working less made them happier and therefore they worked better and more and for this reason, they were more productive from Monday to Thursday and the company itself achieved excellent results in terms of productivity and consumption savings.

The choice of Japan as a place for experimentation, of course, is not causal. In Japan, the culture of continuous backbreaking work is widespread and with a few pauses that involve accumulations of extraordinary so much that the country has even coined a term, “karoshi” which means death for illnesses caused by stress or severe depression at work. Reconfirming the theory that “less is more”, despite the fast pace of work, Japan is a place characterized by a low level of productivity. The choice of this country seems, therefore, to have been optimal.

Considering the more than the positive outcome of this experiment, Microsoft – although it has not yet decided to make a rule of 4 working days a week – has already announced that it will repeat the experiment during the winter. Also in 2017, Panasonic had experienced a reduction in work which however did not find a definitive application; we hope that in the case of Microsoft, things will go differently.

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