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Microsoft employees in Japan may be getting some good news in the near future. Microsoft Japan conducted a trial during the summer where it cut its work week down to four days. The results make for interesting reading.

During the trial of the four-day work week, Microsoft Japan allowed employees in its Tokyo base to have each Friday off during August. These employees were compensated with “special paid leave”.

Furthermore, the company announced a support program for employees. This provides workers with access to expenses for travel during the trial.

“‘Work-Life Choice’ aims to create an environment where each employee can choose a diverse and flexible way of working according to the circumstances of their work and life,” Microsoft Japan previously said about the trial.

In an update to detail the results of the trial, Microsoft shows plenty of interesting data. For example, it seems working less boosts productivity. Among the trial’s findings were:

  • The number of workdays was reduced by 25%
  • The number of papers printed was reduced by 58%
  • Electricity consumption was reduced by 23%
  • Productivity increased by around 40%

Sparking Debate

Upon completion of the trial, 92% of participating employees said they were happy with the program. In Japan, the trial is making big news and causing debate. Not least because the country has the longest average working hours in the world.

CNBC detailed a 2016 Japanese government study that showed around 25% of all companies require employees to work 80 hours of overtime each month. Despite this increased worktime, Japan ranks poorly in productivity assessments. Indeed, the OECD Compendium of Productivity Indicators ranks Japan bottom of all G7 nations in terms of productivity.

In a report, The Japan Times points to a Japanese labor ministry survey that shows the company is starting to understand the value of working less.