“Thank God it’s Friday.” We’ve all said it, burned out after a long work week. But why do we work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week? Is there something magical about a 40 hour workweek that encourages productivity?
According to a recent experiment conducted by Microsoft’s Japan offices, no.
In August of this year, Microsoft’s Japan offices challenged their employees to balance work and life by taking Fridays off, limiting meetings to 30 minutes or less, and holding remote group discussions if possible. The workers’ paychecks did not change. At the end of the month, the company reviewed the results of the month-long “Work Life Choice Challenge.”
The numbers speak for themselves. The challenge found that:
- Productivity increased by 40 percent compared to the same period last year.
- 92 percent of employees were happy with the shorter work week.
- 59 percent fewer pages were printed.
- 23 percent less electricity was used.
And it’s not just Microsoft. In 2018, the New Zealand trust management firm Perpetual Guardian experimented with a four day workweek in March and April. Productivity increased by 20 percent, and the firm permanently implemented a four day workweek in October. So no, there’s nothing magical about a 40 hour workweek. Why do we do it then?
The 40 hour workweek can be traced back to the early twentieth century, when most people worked in manufacturing. However, society has changed a lot since then. There are a lot more knowledge workers than manufacturing workers, and people can work from home or after hours. Workers today live in a very different world than workers a century ago. Isn’t it time the modern world was reflected in the workplace?
Yes. Yes it is. The quality of our lives depends on it, along with the quality of our work.