Japan is known for having some of the longest working hours in the world, with nearly a quarter of Japanese companies previously requiring employees to clock in more than 80 hours of overtime a month, according to a 2016 government survey. They were so long that Japan introduced a new law this year limiting legal overtime work to 45 hours a month, the Telegraph reported.
Microsoft Japan is working to break that trend, thanks to a bold new strategy it hopes will improve the work-life balance of its workers by implementing a three-day weekend for its employees.
They found that when the company decreased hours of its workweek, productivity actually increased -- a surprising result considering Japan is one of the most overworked and least productive workforces among G-7 nations, according to a CNBC report that used data from OECD Compendium of Productivity Indicators.
In August, the company carried out a "Working Reform Project," called the Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019. For one month in August, they gave their 2,300 employees every Friday off during the month, according to soranews24.
The results found that even without the additional day, productivity within the company increased by 39.9 percent.
The study found a major factor in the productivity increase was a result of meeting changes. The four-day workweek forced employees to use their time more efficiently, so many of the meetings were either cut, shortened or changed to virtual meetings instead of in-person, according to the outlet.
Employees also took 25.4 percent fewer days off during the month, printed 58.7 percent fewer pages and used 23.1 percent less electricity in the office, the study concluded.
While this strategy won't work for every type of job, the majority of employees at Microsoft Japan were big supporters of the new initiative.
The outlet said that 92.1 percent of employees said they liked the four-day workweek at the end of its trial run in August.
Due to the success of the program, Microsoft says it plans on implementing it again next summer or at other dates in the future.