Microsoft Japan Tests Out Four-Day Workweek

Category: Business


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. hone / hoʊn / (v) – to improve or make something better

    I paint or draw every day to hone my artistic skills.

  2. staggering / ˈstæg ə rɪŋ / (adj) – shocking, surprising, or overwhelming

    Renting an apartment in the city costs a staggering amount of money; I don’t think I can afford it.

  3. conserve / kənˈsɜrv / (v) – to prevent something from being overused or wasted

    My family is conserving electricity because our bill last month was too high.

  4. pilot / ˈpaɪ lət / (adj) – done as a test before introducing something extensively

    We conducted a pilot test with a small group to try out the new makeup.

  5. iteration / ˌɪt əˈreɪ ʃən / (n) – a repetition of something  

    The next iteration of the experiment will involve 100 participants.


Read the text below.

Microsoft Japan experimented with a four-day workweek as a part of a company-wide summer project.

Dubbed “Work-Life Choice Challenge,” the project aimed to increase employees’ productivity and creativity by providing more flexible working hours. Every Friday in August, Microsoft Japan closed its offices, giving employees one extra day off for five consecutive weeks. During this time, employees still received their regular paychecks.

Prior to this, Microsoft Japan CEO and President Takuya Hirano encouraged employees to get proper rest and gain more knowledge. In fact, the company had announced subsidizing around $900 for employees to vacation with their families or hone their skills.

Nonetheless, Hirano said that the scheme was also a challenge for the staff to achieve five days’ worth of work in just four days.

At the end of the project, Microsoft’s experiment proved to be a success. The company found that the four-day workweek boosted employee productivity by a staggering 39.9% compared to August of last year. In addition, 92% of employees who participated in the experiment were pleased with the scheme.

Apart from having happier and more productive workers, Microsoft also conserved office resources during the experiment. Electricity consumption was down by 23.1%, while paper used for printing was reduced by 58.7%.

Despite the positive results, Microsoft Japan stated that the experiment was just a pilot project and that the company has no concrete plans to officially implement a four-day workweek.

Encouraged by the results, however, Microsoft plans to hold another iteration of the experiment. This time, employees will not get paid days off but will be encouraged to take time off on their own.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Why do you think not 100% of Microsoft Japan’s employees were happy with the four-day workweek? Discuss some disadvantages and weaknesses of the scheme.
• Do you think the second iteration of the “Work-Life Choice Challenge” will be as successful as the first one? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• What are some reasons why people are unproductive at work? Discuss.
• Aside from what was mentioned in the article, what are other ways to increase productivity in the workplace? Discuss.