Microsoft dropped a whopper of a study last week showing that productivity at its offices in Japan increased by 40 percent after the company required workers to take every Friday off. (Workers were still paid for five days of work.) The announcement from one of the world's biggest tech companies breathed new life to the argument that a shortened workweek is not only better for workers but better for the bottom line.
Microsoft wasn't the first company to test out a four-day workweek. In 2018, a New Zealand trustee services firm called Perpetual Guardian ran a two-month trial in which its 250 employees worked four eight-hour days a week but got paid for five. Like Microsoft, the company not only saw upticks in productivity, but also lower stress levels among workers and higher job satisfaction.
Andrew Barnes, founder of Perpetual Guardian, hypothesizes that shaving a day from the workweek would incentivize employees to work more efficiently without sacrificing overall productivity. What he didn't expect was that working less would make their jobs easier.
"More people said they were better able to handle their workload working four days a week rather than five," says Barnes. "That was the one that shocked me."
The two-month trial was such a success that Perpetual Guardian permanently switched to what Barnes calls a "100/80/100" system: 100 percent pay, 80 percent hours, 100 percent productivity. Unlike Microsoft Japan, which dictated when its workers could take their day off (Fridays only), Perpetual Guardian lets its workers decide which day to drop. They can even continue to work five days a week, but with fewer hours each day.