We’re all looking for tricks to be more productive. Some people drink an entire bottle of seltzer water first thing in the morning, convinced it will jump-start their body. Others create an algorithm to identify their peak working hours and aim to get the most done in that time. But last summer, the Japanese division of Microsoft found that working less might actually help us get more done.
Microsoft Japan gave the region’s 2280 employees Fridays off during the month of August. The company didn’t increase the hours employees were expected to work Monday through Thursday, and everyone’s salaries remained unchanged. They also capped meetings at 30 minutes, with no more than five employees in attendance.
The results were remarkable. During the experiment, Microsoft Japan saw profitable changes, including:
• 40% increase in average employee sales
• 23% decline in electricity expenses
• 59% decline in paper printing
Microsoft Japan isn’t the first company to shorten the workweek and see great results. Perpetual Guardian, a finance management company in New Zealand, began testing a four-day workweek for its 240 employees in March of 2018. Researchers from the University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology studied the firm and saw a 20% increase in productivity. Perpetual Guardian employees also reported feeling 7% less stressed and a 24% improvement in work-life balance. After the successful trial, Perpetual Guardian opted to stick with the four-day workweek permanently.
The success of the four-day workweeks isn’t a sign that people don’t want to work. Rather, it shows that most people are capable of being more productive when given an appropriate work-life balance. Burnout is a serious problem for employees, especially in places like Japan, where the drive to overwork can have deadly consequences.
These experiments show that the four-day workweek isn’t just a trend for startups; it could be the future of the workplace.
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