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business

Microsoft Japan’s experiment with 3-day weekend boosts worker productivity by 40%

29 Comments
By Scott Wilson, SoraNews24

Japan has a reputation for not being so great when it comes to work-life balance. And it’s a reputation that makes sense, considering the country routinely scores toward the bottom when it comes to employee satisfaction around the developed world.

For decades this has been a known problem, usually resulting in companies having after-hours meetings to try and figure out how to reduce after-hours meetings, or just shrugging and declaring that “it can’t be helped.”

But some businesses are finally taking actual steps to address the problem. And one of them is probably the last company that many would expect: Microsoft Japan.

In August, Microsoft Japan carried out a “Working Reform Project” called the Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019. For one month last August, the company implemented a three-day weekend every week, giving 2,300 employees every Friday off during the month. This “special paid vacation” did not come at the expense of any other vacation time.

And the results were pretty incredible!

First off, the reductions. Employees took 25.4 percent fewer days off during the month, printed 58.7 percent fewer pages, and used 23.1 percent less electricity in the office (since it was closed an extra day). All of these saved the company quite a bit of money.

Next, the increases. Productivity went up by a staggering 39.9 percent. That means even though the employees were at work for less time, more work was actually getting done.

A lot of the increase in productivity is attributed to the changing of meetings. With only four days to get everything done for the week, many meetings were cut, shortened, or changed to virtual meetings instead of in-person.

And even though it should seem obvious, it’s also important to note that 92.1 percent of employees said that they liked the four day workweek at the end of the trial. Due to its success this year, Microsoft is planning on repeating it again next summer or perhaps at other times as well.

Here’s how Japanese netizens reacted:

“Here’s to hoping my boss reads about this.”

“So I guess me feeling like I’m ready to be done for the week by Wednesday is pretty natural.”

“Unfortunately, us Japanese people value ignoring efficiency and wasting time at work over actually being productive.”

“I mean, the people working at Microsoft are first-class employees. I bet they could get everything done in three days.”

“I’d love for this to be implemented more, but I feel like making it work at companies open all week could be difficult. They’d have to hire more workers to rotate through the days.”

“Yeah, Microsoft is different from regular businesses, so I don’t think this would work everywhere.”

While some of the commentors have a point that this kind of policy wouldn’t work for every type of job, one thing is for certain: humans are only capable of doing so much work in a week. Beyond a certain threshold, no matter the job, work isn’t going to be work anymore, it’s just going to be time-padding.

Source: Nikkei Business Publications via My Game News Flash

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Japanese government’s newest plan to fight overwork: Give employees Monday morning off

-- Study suggests Japanese workers are deeply distrustful of their employers

-- Nintendo answers questions on VR, 5G and staying behind the trends: “Our priority is entertainment”

© SoraNews24

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

29 Comments
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Aint no way a Japanese company is going to let their employees off 4 days a week! Oh wait they already do, it's called arubaito!

9 ( +13 / -4 )

What's this supposed to mean for us here in Japan? Trying to make us all jealous? Pissed off? A little of both perhaps?

-9 ( +5 / -14 )

“I mean, the people working at Microsoft are first-class employees. I bet they could get everything done in three days.”

Not their damn flagship OS, though. FOUR years later and it's the same mess it was back in July of 2015. This isn't a Microsoft Japan thing of course, but I had to throw it out there.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

If you can't discuss everything in 30 mins you have a communication problem. I had a manager that would have 2-3 hours meetings and it was an experience in trying to understand what the meeting was actually about in the end.

23 ( +23 / -0 )

I’ve always said, I would work ten hours a day to make a 40 hour working week and have a three day weekend. It makes much better sense. This initiative is a great thing for employees and their families. However, most Japanese companies expect their workers to be at work for 80-90% of their waking hours. There is no work/life balance. There is only work and minimal sleep for employees. The fact they set a ridiculous national overtime limit of 100 hours per month shows this clearly. In Japan it is very true that, people live to work. They do not work to live.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

I wonder what percentage are doing work at home during their "3 day weekend". I have friends that work for Microsoft Japan and they are never without their PC and company cell phone.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

My questions to MS Jpn, if this was a successful as the article says then WHY THE HELL isn't it implemented year round already...….

One month in Aug...…. that is NOT change, its a tease!

8 ( +8 / -0 )

And even though it should seem obvious, it’s also important to note that 92.1 percent of employees said that they liked the four day workweek at the end of the trial

So 7.9 percent of employees prefer not to have the extra day off? This may be due to them being on their PC all the time anyway as since1981 commented.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

If you can't discuss everything in 30 mins you have a communication problem. I had a manager that would have 2-3 hours meetings and it was an experience in trying to understand what the meeting was actually about in the end.

That is essentially the problem. They don't decide the goals of the meeting beforehand, instead just say it is to "discuss about xxx". Now we have Slack and all these tools to communicate on a regular basis, but people still think it is better to spring questions on us suddenly in a meeting and expect (or don't expect) a decision to be made.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

So 7.9 percent of employees prefer not to have the extra day off? This may be due to them being on their PC all the time anyway as since 1981 commented.

That might also be to have a non-existent or supremely challenging home life. Having to work long hours and obligatory drinking parties afterwards is a handy reason not to be at home for those can't tolerate their family members. Or without interests and activities of any kind, three consecutive days in a 30 square meter apartment may be unbearable. These may be the same ones who never take their allowed vacations.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Microsoft financial global reach can subsidise the losses. Since when has Microsoft been a charity?

This is a company that has never learnt from the past cynical stealth to loot and subsequently steal valued skilled employees from Japan small medium sized businesses that rely on employee loyalty.

It frankly outrageous. Create a headline and plunder at will.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

This also reduces wasted commute tome. In the future companies could share office space if they only need it 3-4 days per week.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Who remembers ‘Premium Friday’? Nobody of course.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Three day weekend, is in fact a four day week. It is totally a loss/unprofitable undertaking.

Microsoft wants smother/suffocate fair competition from innovative small medium sized J/IT brininesss that have built a client base. As soon as the J competition evaporates, so does Microsoft commitment to flexibile work hours.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Culture in gaishi (Foreign companies) is completely different from Japanese companies. This would not be possible to replicate in Japanese companies.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

. . . except they took the friday off. they should take monday. psychologically speaking, that ,s very important. everybody knows that fridays are super easy . . .

0 ( +0 / -0 )

“Unfortunately, us Japanese people value ignoring efficiency and wasting time at work over actually being productive.”

The best quote and extremely insightful into the Japanese working mindset. Deep bow to this thoughtful poster.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

First off, the reductions. Employees took 25.4 percent fewer days off during the month, printed 58.7 percent fewer pages, and used 23.1 percent less electricity in the office (since it was closed an extra day). All of these saved the company quite a bit of money.

> Next, the increases. Productivity went up by a staggering 39.9 percent. That means even though the employees were at work for less time, more work was actually getting done.

Due to its success this year, Microsoft is planning on repeating it again next summer or perhaps at other times as well.

Just make it all year round and spread the word. Maybe it'll catch on.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This won't happen because it is done by a foreign company. This information isn't news.

A few years ago, Toyota did the exact same study in Europe and America and actually made it a standard. But they still push their Japanese workers in Japan to 6 or 7 day work weeks.

Also, I am very sure worker productivity in Japan would greatly increase if you told them they could leave on time.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

So use it every month. There is a clothing company which works 8am-3pm.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Next, the increases. Productivity went up by a staggering 39.9 percent. That means even though the employees were at work for less time, more work was actually getting done.

This is a shortsighted comment.

This increase in productivity will disappear the moment the novelty wears off and the employees get used to the new 4 day week and they settle into a pattern exactly the same as the unproductive 5 day week. This is why it was a short term test and will never become permanent unless those participating in it accept a cut in wages to compensate.... ie: The first comment by Yubaru.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Make this a law.

Or else nobody will gives a damn.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

That might also be to have a non-existent or supremely challenging home life. Having to work long hours and obligatory drinking parties afterwards is a handy reason not to be at home for those can't tolerate their family members. Or without interests and activities of any kind, three consecutive days in a 30 square meter apartment may be unbearable. These may be the same ones who never take their allowed vacations.

Good point. I remember when they interviewed people about the long goldenweek holiday, a lot of people said they had nothing to do.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

This would be an opportunity to have hobbies, not lament on their absence

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Just saying, but I doubt Microsoft Japan will have long compulsory drinking parties like people at a traditional Japanese company, like a trader or an insurance company. It will have a different corporate culture. I would imagine that it has folks logging in and working from home though. Some Japanese companies will have inane rules about "security" which force people to turn up, even just for trivial tasks that could easily be done remotely.

I also think it is helpful and conventional to refer to this as a "four-day week" not a "three-day weekend".

Employees took 25.4 percent fewer days off during the month

Hmm, I suppose you'd have to know how easy it is to take days off at Microsoft Japan to know what this means. It could be a good or a bad.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The lack of productivity in Japan is because of many people having a certain mindset where 'to exist is to participate and there contribute'. It's not exclusive to Japanese people but it's uncritically incorporated into business culture a lot, my Japanese partner says it's practically communism because everyone gets paid the same no matter what they do (I disagree but you get the idea).

This is often illustrated when I ask my uni students if their discussion task was a success - "Yes, we talked!" No mention of the result, so I make them think of the quality of what they produced and they change their minds most of the time. They also don't care about time limits and I really have to impress on them that they have to produce a result that meets the objective before time runs out but it's so 'kibishii' to them...

Japanese work culture (and many other countries') needs a full-on transformation! I'm sure most people would love a four-day week and it's quite possible a lot of the time

2 ( +2 / -0 )

They're doing the same thing at my partner's job, and he's not completely happy about it. To him, a 3-day weekend is too much - he says he almost goes into vacation-mode and has a harder awakening on mondays. This change also happened at the cost of flexibility with things like remote work and working hours, so it isn't for everyone.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I hope it works, it might not work for all companies, but why not give it a go? I know that the old boys don't like change, but this is why Japanese economy is in stagnation mode, "won't change carry on as normal " The plus sides are if staff are off on Fridays they will be going places intern they will be spending more money, which helps the economy grow. I know a lot of people who work from home, they love it, it give them freedom from the boring office, the 1-2 hour commute backwards and forwards on crowded roads and rail. they have flexibility to take kids to school.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Pipedream for the rest of Japan. Read my words: ain't gonna happen at any Japanese company. End of story.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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