Microsoft tried 3-day weekends and saw a huge jump in productivity

Satya Nadella Launches Microsoft Build Conference
Getty Images | Stephen Lam

Microsoft recently gave some of its employees more personal time, and the rewards should cause other employers to sit up and take notice. Not only did workers benefit from more time away from the office, but the company’s bottom line enjoyed a boost as well.

Working In Japan

Japan is not known for having an employee-centric workplace culture. Rather, Japanese businesses typically set rigid expectations for their workers, which are said to have led to a shocking number of deaths among otherwise young, healthy people.

In 2016, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe called for workplace reform. It seems that at least one notable company has put that call into action.

Getty Images | Keith Tsuji
Getty Images | Keith Tsuji

Microsoft Makes A Change

In August 2019, Microsoft Japan implemented an in-house practice project promoting “Work-Life Choice.” The goal of the project was to accelerate workstyle reform. For the entire month of August, the 2,300 employees who work at the tech giant’s locations in Japan were given Fridays off. Regular employees took special paid leave and all Microsoft Japan offices were closed for those five Fridays in August.

Not only did the company give workers paid time off, however, but the employer also earmarked funds to subsidize expenses related to self-development — such as course admissions and exam fees — and family time, such as leisure activities.

The Surprising Results Of Shorter Work Weeks

The company ended up benefiting financially from giving employees those extra five days off. While some savings were to be expected — such as a 23% drop in their electricity bills — others were more remarkable, such as the 58% drop in the number of paper printouts.

But perhaps the most astonishing advantage Microsoft Japan realized was increased productivity. Even though the number of workdays was reduced by 25%, productivity jumped by a whopping 40%.

Not so shocking was how employees felt about the project. By the end of the program run, 92% of employees said they were happy with it. So they’ll be thrilled to know that the company plans to try it again at some point in the future.

What would you do with a three-day weekend?

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Tricia Goss

Tricia is a professional writer and editor who lives in North Texas with her family and one smelly dog. She is a wannabe problem solver, junk food maven professional coffee practitioner, web guru and general communicator. Learn More.