Microsoft Toys with Shorter Work Week

The company gave its workers in Japan paid leave on Fridays — and saw a nearly 40% increase in productivity.

This August, a Microsoft subsidiary in Japan experimented with a four-day work week.

The company worked Monday through Thursday as part of a work-life balance project, and the workers received paid leave on Fridays. 

The results were surprising, as the company announced a nearly 40% boost in productivity. The figure was determined by comparing sales figures from August 2018. 

According to the company, the program was part of the 2019 Summer "Work-Life Choice Challenge." The project not only made workers more efficient, but the schedule also lowered electricity costs by 23%.

The program was such a success that the company plans to hold a similar event this winter.

As part of the move towards efficiency, the company cut meeting times from 60 minutes to 30 minutes and capped attendance at five employees — no reason to tie up multiple people from the same team. The company also encouraged workers to use group chats, rather than email. 

The news serves as a bit of a promo for Microsoft's Workplace Analytics platform, which takes user data from Office 365 to identify patterns that impact productivity, workforce effectiveness and employee engagement. 

This winter, Microsoft Japan is inviting employees to share ideas about how to improve the work-life balance. 

The program will also partner with MINDS (Millennial Innovation for the Next Diverse Society), a cross-industry collaborative effort in which millennial workers observe modern workplaces to find the "ideal way to work" in 2020. 

The group will help inform government and economic organizations on millennial working style preferences. 

The partnership could help fight burnout across the industry, particularly in millennial workers. A 2018 Gallup study found that millennial workers are more likely to burn out at work than older generations. 

Perhaps the four-day work week is the key.

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