Skip to main content

Microsoft Japan tried a four-day workweek, and people got more done

Microsoft Logo at Ignite
Microsoft Logo at Ignite (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft Japan tested a four-day workweek for an entire month.
  • The experiment led to increased productivity.
  • During the same time period, employees took less time off and used fewer resources.

Microsoft Japan gave employees an entire month of three-day weekends in July of 2019. The "working reform project" was part of the Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019 (via SoraNews 24). During the project, Microsoft Japan saw increased productivity by employees and a reduction of used resources.

As reported by SoraNews 24, employees took 25.4 percent fewer days off, used 23.1 percent less electricity, and printed 58.7 percent fewer pages during the project. Some resource reduction would occur simply by lowering the number of working days, such as reducing electricity use, but the reductions were higher than what would occur by simply reducing consumption by 20 percent.

During the same time period, productivity increased by 39.9 percent. Unsurprisingly, 92.1 percent of employees said they enjoyed working four days per week.

Though one month is a small sample size, the project indicates that there could be some merit to reducing working hours within a week. Some believe "Parkinson's Law," which states that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." There's a chance that people are more efficient when given smaller windows to complete work.

How many days do you believe employees should work in a week? Let us know in the comments below.

Sean Endicott
Sean Endicott

Sean Endicott is the news writer for Windows Central. If it runs Windows, is made by Microsoft, or has anything to do with either, he's on it. Sean's been with Windows Central since 2017 and is also our resident app expert. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com.

19 Comments
  • Were those 4 8 hour days, or 4 10 hour days? I've done 40 hours as 4 10 hour days and really enjoyed it. 8 hour days would be less tiring. Depending on the work, the pace at the end of the day can slow dramatically.
  • That's not really a "reduction" in work well as that'd still be 40 hours. Plus you're assuming they have a similar work schedule as the US does. I say 4 days of 7 hours would be good. Honestly. I do so much other **** during my work days and weeks just to fill time, kill boredom, and keep my sanity at my corporate B's cookiecutter job
  • 60 percent less paper? OK, this is probably a garbage result, putting aside the fact that this is meaningless without long-term evidence and given the fact that workers in Japanese corporates are famously, pointlessly working long hours to avoid the scorn of their bosses. Likely a lot more was happening at this office at the same time than a change in official hours. There is zero good reason why the amount of paper produced should go down by that much just because of the change in hours.
  • I mean, I said it was a small sample size. I do think there are industries where 4 days is fine. For example, if you're at a job that takes 40 hours to get everything done, and then a new technology comes out that makes it only take 32 hours, what are you supposed to do for the rest of the time?
  • Exactly - that's why after two centuries of technological progress we now only work one hour a week. There's never anything else to do! Sarcasm aside - there's always something else to do.
  • One thing I saw reported in other reports is that they also instituted a policy where meetings could only be 30 minutes or less. This might have played into this. Additionally, total volume is key. If I print 2 pages monthly and then I cut back by 1 page, then I cut my printing by 50%, but I only cut 1 page. I suspect this one is more an indirect result of things than anything.
  • In the UK in 1974, a miners' strike lead to electricity shortages. Because of this, there was a mandatory 3-day working week for 9 or 10 weeks. When the government came to measure the lost GDP because of this, they found it was only 7 per cent.
  • Well yeah! Spread the word.
  • I preferred working (4) 10hr days & having Wednesdays off (along with the weekend).
  • There have been numerous studies that came to the same conclusion but companies are afraid to change. I put myself on 4 day work week about 2 years ago. I'm independent so I don't get to bill my clients to make up for the lost day but it is sure is great to have a long weekend every week.
  • I'm a high school math teacher. I have long believed a four day week for students and a five day week for staff would be ideal. It would be up to the teacher to decide how to use that fifth day. It could be grading, lesson planning, collaboration with colleagues, conferences, study sessions, etc.
  • Not sure. What might work for Microsoft employees in Japan in the summer might not be applicable to other business sectors. Healthcare, for one, comes to mind (patient care is often 24/7 care). I'm curious to see a 12 month experiment and see if the satisfaction applies to all seasons. I can also reduce my electric bill in the summer as consume less energy in the summer than winter. Also curious to know if working overtime, to compensate a day less work in the week was registered by employees and thus taken into consideration to explain the increased productivity.
  • Don't think it would apply to hourly. Just salary which wouldn't change.
  • This is not unheard of, I have seen this applied toany industries and the results are usually the same. I'm not sure where the American standard of overworking one's self came into existence, but it doesn't increase production.
  • Depends on where most workers reside. If it's densely crowded city like HKG and central Tokyo, doubt workers will be happy working shorter hours. In fact, they will protest. There is very little incentive for them to go home early which is a tiny pigeon hole versus pretending to work long hours in office just to enjoy free air con and Internet access. 😂
  • Less time off comes from the employees not having to run the multitude of errands that have to be done during a normal work week but cannot be done outside normal hours (i.e. doctor's visits).
  • I would much rather work 4 ten hour days than five eight hour days, you'd be amazed what you can achieve with three days of relaxation and it doesn't actually affect your contact hours with work so you are still getting the same amount done there.
  • 4 working Japanese days are like 14 hrs per day, then 14 x 4 = 56 hrs per week xD
  • I've read about previous studies that confirm this. You can reduced the amount of time people work, either by the amount of days, or the amount of hours per day, and the output of the works stays the same once the week