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[dupe] Microsoft Japan’s 4-day workweek experiment sees productivity jump 40% (cnbc.com)
63 points by known 23 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 30 comments

Heavily discussed twice at time of announcement nearly 2 months ago (note this article is from early Nov):



Maybe the headline should reflect this gem:

> That boon was thanks in part, Microsoft said, to meetings capped at 30 minutes and an increase in remote conferences.

From my past experiences in megacorps, there are so many meetings it sometimes feels like that's all you're doing.

Not just megacorps, I've seen long unproductive meetings in startups which means a larger percent of the workforce out of action for the duration. Often I find managers who insist on these types of meetings, frequently, are the same ones that don't really seem to be providing much value generally outside of meetings.

Unless it's some sort of C level meeting with tje board on quarterly basis, I seen no reason why any internal meeting should be more than half an hour long.

I agree. Sadly not every manager got that memo.

My brief time at $megacorp taught me to recognize when a meeting turns into unproductive bullshitting, at which point I just walk away and go back to work. YMMV.

There's a fantastic TED talk on the same topic called "Why work does not happen at work" by Jason Fried


From what I've heard from the previous reporting, they were tracking the performance by the sales revenue by employee. The sales numbers for MSFT are mostly recurring revenue, and the +40% productivity jump may be a result of seasons in their subscription renewals.

The 40% figure definitely needs more context. What was the average increase in sales the prior 6 months? And did it decrease back to normal after the experiment was over?

And a single month of sales increase might be due to timing in sales cycles. Maybe the prior month there was a lot more overtime than usual, and there were a lot more leads this month, and prospects further in the sales cycle.

I am all for a 4 day work week but this experiment is lacking a bit.

If I was in that experiment I would work harder during that 80% just to prove that 80% time is more productive.

> Meanwhile, the firm saw a fall in costs, with 23.1% less electricity used and 58.7% fewer pages printed over the period.

The 23.1% figure makes intuitive sense; the 58.7% figure seems astronomical. Why would employees being out 1/5 days lead to fewer than half the number of pages being printed?

Elimination of "makework"? If you're trying to fill time by reviewing a document, it's better to print it off and go through it with a highlighter, spread pages across your desk etc. That achieves the goal of looking like work.

I've heard Japan still relies a lot on faxes rather than emails, and I wouldn't be surprised if a four-day workweek in the West at an average IT corporation would result in 50% fewer emails, as a lot of them are superfluous.

It seems like reducing work hours is the most effective way to combat climate change.

Shorter and less meetings were mentioned.

Maybe they also included more efficient meetings, and teaching employees to not print stacks of paper to prepare or use in meetings anymore. Some details will be missing from the article.

They're probably being forced into using email more because people will not all have the same free day so handing printed memo's and attached documents doesn't really work.

That does make sense and the only comparison I'm aware of would be a remote worker who you are just not going to start sending printed pages or faxes etc compared to digital forms, and in those case will often see closer to 100% reduction (alas some things need physical signatures).

I'm speaking from experience in UK/Sweden vs what I see in The Netherlands.

In some of the large organizations I've worked at it was the culture to distribute anything "official" - draft documents, meeting notes, presentations for meetings etc - in printed forms to a surprisingly large number of people.

Since I moved to mainland Europe - where a four-day working week is very much the norm for people with kids in high skill jobs - I have yet to encounter this practice.

Technology might also be playing a roll here, but large organizations have this tendency to fight any kind of change tooth and nail, it only seems to happen when it is forced.

less time wasted in meetings with printed presentations?

Did they check for the Hawthorne Effect? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawthorne_effect

Almost any change you make when combined with extra observation will increase productivity for a short time.

MSFT won't adopt it even in this office alone, not talking about the worldwide offices...nuff said

It certainly would be nice to see things move on from a standard established at a car manufacturer nearly a hundred years ago. However, it's a well-known result that almost every study of a change in an office finds an increase in productivity. Essentially, it's believed that any change temporarily increases motivation. (I can't find citations right now, sorry.)

Medium size and big companies have workplace rules and policies directed to managing the worst 10 - 20 percent of the workforce. They apply to everyone because you must be fair.

Surprising number of people just need more rest (mental health is big issue) and start thriving when you cut their hours.

some good/top places at Silicon Valley make one day, Wednesday typically, a WFH and that is pretty close to 4-day week and may be even better as it allows to experience the "collaborative" environment of modern office plan in bite-size 2-day chunks instead of tiresome 4 days in a row thus being much more easier and less stressful which almost directly translates into productivity.

Working from home is not really "close to not working", that's really bad to say for all remote workers

of course, because they're now working 44 hours per week, instead of 55

/obligatory joke about perceived "salaryman's" work hours in Japan

For real, is the circumstance really like this even for foreign companies in Japan?

Hey, Silicon Valley techno-utopian startups always trying to think different when it comes to new wacky incentives to lure in talent: why not consider adopting this?

At the very least, could it be feasible in a small organization to stagger it so that some people work M-Th, and the others T-F, so there's partial coverage for all days of the week?

The startup I work for does this, I work 4 days a week, get paid 5. I love it, makes such a huge difference to have a 3 days weekend, lets you detach a lot more from work.

I'm the CTO and have set up alerts that I get on my phone when I'm not in the office, so even if something critical happens over the weekend it's not like I won't fix it for 3 days.

I noticed that I'm more motivated during the 4 days to do a maximum of stuff, I take less smoking pauses during the day, which increases my productivity and is better for my health ;). I also have no problem to stay one or two hours longer on thursday evening if something needs to be done before the long weekend because I know I will have plenty of time to recover afterwards anyway.

It's highly dependent on the actual work and the productivity claims here are unclear. There's plenty of evidence that truly creative/productive time per day is limited and that more but shorter days might be a better trade off then fewer long days. Then again it all gets muddied when full-time hours aren't actually tracked and certain cultures like Japan where excessive overtime is normal.

We looked at both solutions, shorter days of lets say 6 hours or less days. For me personally fewer days is better, because I have a pretty long ride to work, so working a day less also removes two long travels.

Also in my opinion no solution reducing the amount of working hours should have disadvantages over the conventional 5 days / 40 hours weeks, or there will be no produtivity / motivation gain. So just saying we still work 40 hours but do this on 4 days a week is obviously bad. Also working 32 hours and being paid less is bad and so on...

Something else that had a huge impact for me, is that our working hours are much more flexible now. We have four so called "core hours" from 10 in the morning to 15 in the afternoon where everyone has to be in the office, the rest is flexible. So you are allowed to work 7 hours one day and 9 the next day. Also you can include two one hour pauses as long as the minimum amount per week is not lower than 32 hours. For me this is great because it allows me to drive to work and from work when the traffic on the streets is much lower than at peak times where all the other workers commute.

My philosophy is that creative work can't be scheduled. It can't be forced.

Moreso as the time allotted goes up and the arete of life goes down.

My most productive, correct, happy, focused work comes when all of my needs are met excellently and when I feel like it. You can't tell me when to have a very good day of work, but the more you take care of me, the more often, intense, and extensive my best days are.

40 hour work days are for drones, slaves, people doing mindless or obvious work. I'll call that Drudgery. Its opposite I'll call Art.

Hire a painter to create new works, 9-5, and you'll get something which with shallow judgement looks like art, tries to be, but is simply not. Become a patron of an artist and you might get something real.

People are learning that art is not drudgery and when you confuse the two you get bad quality work, inefficient work, and bad quality life.

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