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Microsoft trials four-day work week

(Image credit: Microsoft)
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Following an experiment where staff worked a four-day week for full pay, Microsoft Japan has revealed that sales were boosted by nearly 40 percent during the month in which the trial was run.

The software giant's Japanese offices were closed on every Friday in August 2019 and full-time staff were given paid “special leave”. During the experiment, meetings were also restricted to a maximum of 30 minutes and employees were encouraged to have discussions online as opposed to meeting face-to-face.

Japan has some of the longest working hours in the world and according to a 2017 survey, nearly a quarter of Japanese companies had their employees working more than 80 hours of overtime a month and these extra hours were often unpaid.

Of those employees who participated in Microsoft's Work Life Choice Challenge 2019 (opens in new tab), 92 percent had positive things to say about the experiment when they were surveyed after its conclusion.

Work-life balance

According to Microsoft, electricity consumption was reduced by 23 percent and paper printing was reduced by 59 percent during the month-long trial when compared to the amount of energy and paper used in August 2018.

The company also said that it is planning to implement a second Work Life Choice Challenge this winter, though this time it will not be offering employees the same “special leave”. Instead, staff will be encouraged to take time off in order to “rest smartly”.

While Microsoft Japan is trying to be more productive by working less, Alibaba's co-founder Jack Ma is encouraging his employees to work more by having them work 12-hour days. In April 2019, Ma described the “996” pattern, in which employees work from 9am to 9pm for six days a week as “a blessing”.

However, now that Microsoft Japan has proved that a shorter work week could be beneficial in Japan of all places where working long hours is often a requirement, perhaps businesses in other countries may soon follow suit with four-day work week experiments of their own.

Via The BBC (opens in new tab)

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.