After spending August experimenting with a four-day work week in a country notorious for overwork, Microsoft Japan said sales per employee rose 40% compared to the same month last year.
The “Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019” saw full-time employees take off five consecutive Fridays in August with pay, as well as shortening meetings to a maximum of 30 minutes and encouraging online chats over face-to-face ones. Among workers responding to a survey about the programme, 92% said they were pleased with the four-day week, the software maker’s Japan affiliate said in a report on its website on 31 October.
Japan has been struggling to bring down some of the world’s longest working hours as it confronts a labour shortage and rapidly ageing population. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to make workplaces more flexible and reduce overtime has drawn mixed reviews.
The summer trial also cut costs at Microsoft Japan, with 23% less electricity consumed and 59% fewer pages printed compared to August 2018, according to the report. Some Microsoft Japan managers still didn’t understand the changes in working styles and some employees expressed concern that shorter work weeks would bother clients.
Microsoft Japan plans to hold another work-life challenge in winter. Employees won’t get special paid days off, but will be encouraged to take time off on their own initiative “in a more flexible and smarter way”. — Reported by Sophie Jackman, (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP