Do you think the weekends are not enough time away from work? Do you tell 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 working less. There have been studies out there regarding the benefits of four-day workweeks. One of them will be discussed in this post. The idea of having shorter workweeks and workdays has simplified, with some companies looking at implementing more flexible work schedules.
Benefits of Four-Day Workweeks: Microsoft Study
Most recently, Microsoft Japan published a study that looked at flexible work options. 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. The key findings from the study include:
1.) Four-Day Workweeks Resulting in 40% Jump In Productivity
2.) Positive Employee Feedback
3.) New Initiatives: Self-Development & Family Wellness Programs
Benefits of Four-Day Workweeks
40% Jump in Productivity
In the study of approximately 2300 employees, Microsoft Japan’s objective was to allow 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.
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.
Positive Employee Feedback
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 companies required 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 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 longer than three months. That way, we can see how it would significantly change 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 bigger implications of what could come out of the study.
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, 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 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. It is considered 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 for more personal time outside of work. If the model by Microsoft Japan lives up to their expectations, shorter days and fewer work hours could be the new norm in the modern workplace.
Do you find a work-life balance a priority in life?
Is the company you work at looking to implement flexible work schedules?
How is it improving your own work schedule?
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