A New Normal: Shorter Workweeks

In August 2019, Microsoft Japan piloted a four-day workweek for their 2,300 workers. They got Fridays off and received their full paycheque. The result? Productivity rose 40%.

The four-day workweek is not a new concept, but the pandemic and its impact on the corporate world have catalyzed its popularity. In fact, 70% of employees believe the 40-hour, five-day workweek is “outdated,” and 45% of respondents said it would take them less than five hours a day to do their jobs if they were able to work uninterrupted. 

Factoring in Productivity

Microsoft Japan’s four-day workweek saw a key success: employees became more economical and efficient with their time while many meetings were shortened or axed entirely. Knowing they had only four days to do five days worth of work, everyone hyper-prioritized and cut out low-value activities to stay on top of their game.

Seeing its success, experts are touting other benefits of a four-day workweek that employers should consider:

  • Cost reduction: Closing down the office for a day reduces your operating costs and possibly your wellness expenses. 
  • Health benefits: Less stress and more time for exercise, personal relationships, and recouping could lead to higher productivity and happier employees.
  • Talent attraction and retention: Providing your team an extra day off means that you’re trusting them to get their jobs done. Workers that feel respected and trusted are likely to be more dedicated to their jobs. It also plays a role in attracting talents as the next generation of workers highly value flexibility and better work-life balance. 

It’s also important to know that employees want to work. A 2018 survey conducted by Kronos asked, “If your pay is constant, how many days a week do you want to work?”. Shockingly, only 4% of workers chose the option “None”. 34% chose the four-day work week, 28% preferred to stick to five days, and 20% wanted three days. It is clear that people still want to work; they just don’t want it to be all that they do

Is This Feasible for Your Company? 

Unfortunately, there are certain sectors where a four-day workweek is obstructive. Industries that need to maintain productive output like manufacturing, engineering and construction will find it hard to close doors for a day. Hospitals and other healthcare related lines of business also cannot participate. Your customers are an important factor to consider. They may not like having to wait longer for service, and could switch over to competitors if they experience enough dissatisfaction. 

For many employees, the four-day workweek is just what they are looking for. It’s more sustainable in this current reality of long commute times, plus the hours staring at screens that have brought on a range of stressors like burnout, insomnia, loneliness, and other health problems. Workplace norms have shifted tremendously in the past year and this next jump for change may be an experiment worth all the effort.