Are you asking yourself if the weekends (two days) are not enough time away from work? Do you say to yourself, “If I only I could have an extra day off work, then I can get more done.” These days, work-life balance has been a topic of interest for many employees looking to work less. The idea of having shorter workweeks and shorter workdays has simplified, and some companies are looking at implementing more flexible work schedules for their employees.
Most recently, Microsoft Japan published a study that looked at flexible work options, and the results were intriguing. The study took place in August 2019, where the firm implemented a four-day workweek that its employees followed. This study is called the “Work-Life Choice Challenge 2019 Summer”. The research is in Japanese, so instead of interpreting the whole review, I will review some key findings from some articles I read about the results.
Let’s take a look at some highlights.
40% Jump in Productivity Under 4 Day Workweeks- Decline in Operation Costs For Firm
In the study of approximately 2300 employees, Microsoft Japan’s objective was to provide options for employees to work 25% fewer hours in a given week. The most prominent finding was that employee productivity increased to 40% (sales per employee measure productivity). During August 2019, the firm closed its office on Fridays, allowing employees to enjoy a three-day weekend. The move resulted in operation costs going down (less money to run facilities each day). There were shorter meetings at work (in this case, sessions were limited to a half-hour a day), and more remote conferences took place. Some impressive figures included 23% less electricity and 58% less paper printed each day. The costs of electricity and printing paper can run up high sometimes, so this was a unique cost-saving result.
Positive Employee Feedback- Self Development & Family Wellness Programs
Along with providing flexibility for their employees, Microsoft Japan offered self-development and family wellness programs to accommodate work-life balance. As a result of employee feedback, the firm look into ways their employees could find better resources for their families. 92% of employees responded positively to the four-day workweek, saying it would benefit them and the firm further should it be implemented permanently.
The study was similar to one that a company in New Zealand did back in 2018. The company tested a four-day workweek, and the results came back positive from their employees. Additionally, the culture in Japan is known as hardworking, and firm employee commitment to company success. Also, a 2016 study from the Japanese government found that around 25% of Japanese companies required their employees to work more than 80 hours of overtime a month. This understanding has commonly been referred to as “karoshi” or death by overwork.
Reflections & Thoughts
Based on the results of this study, flexibility is something many people value these days. Work-life balance is something they want to prioritize in today’s workforce.
In my opinion, I like the four-day workweek schedule and the benefits that come out of improving work-life balance. However, my concern is that the four-day workweek lasted for a month. I prefer Microsoft Japan to try it for at least three months (or even a year) to see how it would significantly change employee performance and culture. If the study went on longer, would the results be the same, or would there be a small dip in productivity a year later? As a long-term thinker, I like to look at the more significant implications of what could come out of if it extended past one month.
On another thought, a four-day workweek may not be ideal on a year-round basis. For instance, if you work at a place where the work volume is higher at certain times of the year, a four-day workweek may be useful as a short-term solution. The site I work at has a four-day workweek established for some employees. I work at a 24/7 mail processing center, where the work volume tends to be higher on the weekends. So what management decides to do from time to time is to implement a four-day workweek during these peak periods. Once the peak periods are over, we switch back to a traditional five-day work schedule for all employees. So this approach is an excellent example for companies to consider four-day workweeks as just a temporary solution to fluctuating work volume.
Overall, the study conducted resulted in positive feedback from employees about flexible work options. The firm plans on testing out this approach next winter- ultimately, to see if they want to implement it in the long term. Working four days and having a three-day weekend allows employees to pursue hobbies, get errands done, and spend more time with their families. Who knows, if the model by Microsoft Japan lives up to their expectations, shorter days, and fewer work hours each day could be the new norm in the modern-day workplace.
If you enjoyed reading this post, leave a comment below. I would love to hear your thoughts regarding this study.
Do you find a work-life balance a priority in life?
Are you or the company you work at looking to implement flexible work schedules?
If so, what are the responses? How is it improving your own work schedule?
Let me know! Also, please share this article with others.