Microsoft’s Work-Life Choice Challenge project found that productivity increased during a four-day workweek, along with implementing 30-minute (max) meetings. (Image credit: Microsoft)


Microsoft’s offices in Japan recently implemented a four-day workweek as an experiment and found that productivity in said offices shot up by 40%. The test was part of a summer project fielded back in August, known as the Work-Life Choice Challenge, which examined work/life balance and its effect on worker productivity and creativity by giving them more flexible work hours.


To that end, Microsoft started closing its offices on every Friday, and reduced meetings to 30-minutes maximum, along with encouraging remote online communication. Full-time employees of the tech giant were also given paid leave during the closures on Friday’s, which also helped boost that productivity percentage.


Sales per employee increased 39.9% during the experiment compared to the previous year’s figures, while an employee satisfaction survey found that an overwhelming 92.1% of workers proffered the four-day workweek. Not only were the employees happier, but so was the environment as Microsoft Japan reported a 23.1% decrease in electricity use and a 58.7% reduction in the number of pages printed during the closures, compared to last year’s figures.


Based on the positive results, Microsoft will institute a “Work-Life Choice Challenge 2019 Winter” program, which will focus on three pillars:


   1: Rest Smartly/Choose- Will look into providing employees with special leave to focus on independent and autonomous challenges, combined with paid leave and holiday vacations.


   2: Work in a Short Time- Continued visualization of the work-style using work-place analytics, as well as the communication practices, such as the 30-minute meetings and the use of Microsoft Teams.


   3: Enjoy the Challenge- Holding internal contests to recruit new ideas from the employees on how to best work, rest, and learn during the winter.


Microsoft isn’t the only company to experiment using shorter work weeks, as New Zealand-based legal document firm Perpetual Guardian adopted a four-day workweek after a successful trial. Nearly 250 employees were given four 8-hour workdays and were paid for five. Staff were more productive and focused by better managing their work and home life, which resulted in lower stress levels and increased job satisfaction. The question remains, even though the numbers look great for a shortened workweek, will companies in the US and other countries adopt the same business model?    


We can only hope.


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