Paper and power use dropped during the trial © Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/Getty Images
Paper and power use dropped during the trial © Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Microsoft Japan's four-day week saw productivity rise

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
6 November 2019

Costs were cut and productivity increased by 40% when Microsoft Japan implemented a four-day working week during August.

During the trial period around 2,300 workers took paid leave on every Friday in August, amounting to five days, with the company challenging them to “Work in a short time, take a rest, and learn well”.

Results from the trial show the amount of paper used dropped 58.7% and power consumption fell by 23.1%, compared to August 2016. Productivity, in terms of sales per employee, rose 39.9% compared to August 2018.

“The biggest challenge of this initiative is ‘reform of time’ to work more efficiently in a short time,” said Microsoft Japan. “We will work to further improve productivity and creativity by reforming the methods of internal meetings and email communications where employees spend a lot of time.”

The company said during the trial the default meeting duration was cut from 60mins to 30mins and the maximum number of participants was set at five.

“Internal surveys show that Microsoft [Japan] employees hold 11% more meetings than the global Microsoft average, and many employees participate in meetings that do not necessarily require participation,” said the company. 

“In particular, as a unique feature of Japan, there are many cases where meetings are attended at three levels (headquarters, managers, field employees, etc.), and multiple team colleagues attend the same meeting.”

Japan is grappling with the problem of “karoshi” – death by overwork – and Microsoft’s move is part of efforts to encourage people to spend less time at work.

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