Could a four-day workweek be in your firm’s future?
Businesses large and small are experimenting with the concept, and the early results are surprisingly favorable. The latest to try it is Microsoft, which implemented a program called “Work Life Choice Challenge” at its headquarters in Japan.
“The results were promising,” write Michelle Toh and Yoko Wakatsuki for CNN Business. “While the amount of time spent at work was cut dramatically, productivity — measured by sales per employee — went up by almost 40 percent compared to the same period the previous year.”
The Microsoft project made news because up until now it has been mostly smaller companies that have tinkered with their workweeks. Now that a behemoth has jumped on board, the truncated workweek trend is more likely to gain momentum.
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Four Days On, Three Off
Under its “Work Life Choice Challenge,” Microsoft closed its doors every Thursday, giving all of its 2,280 employees a three-day weekend.
“In addition to reducing working hours, managers urged staff to cut down on the time they spent in meetings and responding to emails,” according to the CNN Business article. “They suggested that meetings should last no longer than 30 minutes. Employees were also encouraged to cut down on meetings altogether by using an online messaging app (Microsoft’s, of course).”
Japan has been grappling with solutions to a business culture that emphasizes long hours, high stress, and maximum achievement. For some workers, the combination is toxic.
In 2017, a broadcast reporter killed herself after logging close to 160 hours of overtime in the previous month. Not long before that, an employee at an advertising company also committed suicide after putting in punishing hours.
Both cases made international news. The Japanese government took note. It launched a campaign called “Premium Friday,” which encourages workers to leave early every last Friday of the month.
Work Life Choice Challenge
After slashing the workweek by 20 percent, Microsoft reported that it saved significant expenses on electricity and other resources. Its employees got more time with their families and friends. And the company didn’t miss a beat.
Microsoft says it will continue to explore new measures to improve work-life balance and efficiency.
What about at you? Do you think a four-day workweek is a good idea? Would it work at your firm? Why or why not?
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