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MS Tested a Three-Day Weekend, Productivity Jumped by 40%

Microsoft Japan trialled a radical idea: working less and found that four-day weeks and other reforms both boosted sales and cut costs.
In August, the Japenese unit of US IT giant closed its offices every Friday, giving all full-time workers special leave. And it also restricted meetings to a maximum of 30 minutes and encouraged online chats an alternative to face to face communications. The number of participants in the meetings was limited to five, and workers were also encouraged to use online communication instead of emails, Microsoft Japan said.
The results were positive, with sales per employee rising almost 40 per cent in August from a year earlier, electricity consumption down by a quarter and paper usage being cut in half.
The programme comes as Japan’s government pushes for more ‘flexible work styles,’ urging business to accept telecommuting, different part-time schedules and off-peak commuting. The effort is part of an attempt to address the issue of ‘karoshi’ death from overwork and to encourage overworked and overburdened couples to have children in a country that is struggling with a shrinking population.
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