An experiment at Microsoft's Japan headquarters over the summer has given new proof to advocates of the shorter work week. With the office closed on Fridays, productivity actually rose by 40%, NPR reports.
If Microsoft is finding success with a 4-day workweek, could it work for other companies? And would it work for working parents?
In 2018, a company that does will and trust management in New Zealand conducted a similar experiment, paying employees for 40 hours while requiring them to work only 32. They found that productivity stayed the same, but employees reported being more satisfied with their job, feeling less stressed and having a better work-life balance. Again and again, social scientists and economists are making the case that more isn't more when it comes to time spent at work. Reducing hours even has benefits to the environment, resulting in less commuting, and it can lower energy costs for businesses that don't have to maintain lights and climate control in an empty office.
For working parents, cutting a day off the week could reduce the cost of childcare, not to mention increase the amount of time we could spend with our kids. Throw in the possibility of an alternating schedule with a spouse or partner and you might only have to pay for three days of care.
Some experts are hopeful the 4-day workweek will spread. "Hopefully, it gains traction," Eddy Ng, a professor of management at Bucknell University in Pennslyvania told Global News. "I think it's good for productivity, it's good for mental health and it forces us to rethink how we do work."
It's not a one-size-fits-all solution, but this has the potential to be a part of a change in work culture. Work-life balance reforms need to happen, and we need companies to be flexible and innovative to make life easier for working parents. A 4-day work week is one great idea, but parents also need increased flexibility, and more understanding from coworkers and bosses, no matter how many days per week we're spending in the office.