Time For a 4 Day Week?

Updated: Jan 31

New Zealand is suggesting companies consider adopting a 4 day week, as is Canada. Back in 2019, Microsoft Japan introduced a 4-day week after demonstrating that the benefits went far beyond a long weekend.

The trial was part of Microsoft's "Work-Life Choice Challenge," a summer project that examined work-life balance and aimed to help boost creativity and productivity by giving employees more flexible working hours.


Microsoft Japan closed its offices every Friday in August and found that productivity increased by 39.9% compared with August 2018, the company said. Full-time employees were still paid as normal, as if it was a regular 5 day working week.


The company said it also reduced the time spent in meetings by implementing a 30-minute limit and encouraging remote communication.


Microsoft wasn't the first to highlight the productivity benefits of a four-day workweek. Andrew Barnes, the founder of a New Zealand estate-planning firm, Perpetual Garden, said he conducted a similar experiment and found that it benefited both employees and the company. Before Microsoft conducted its experiment, Perpetual Garden had already adopted the four-day workweek permanently.


It's not just the employees who benefited from Microsoft's four-day-workweek experiment -Microsoft found that it helped preserve electricity and office resources as well. The number of pages printed decreased by 58.7%, while electricity consumption was down by 23.1% compared with August 2018, the company said.


“This is an opportunity to redesign the way we do things to make them better in the long run,” said John Trougakos, earlier this week, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.


Prof. Trougakos has been researching how to make workplaces and people healthier and more productive for more than 12 years, and said four-day work weeks could be beneficial.

It’s important to look at pros and cons and to be flexible, he said, adding this is a good time to consider new approaches to work.


“More forward-thinking companies should start thinking about it now,” he said, noting it’s a good time to shake-up preexisting dynamics. “People are open to the fact that change is happening.”


The status quo work week of Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. roughly dates back to the Industrial Revolution and the Ford assembly line in the early 1900s. “We’ve never really changed that,” Prof. Trougakos said, noting that an overhaul is overdue.


Chris Higgins, professor emeritus at Western University’s Ivey Business School, said a compressed four-day work week could be suitable for white-collar employees. “It’s perfect for white collar,” Prof. Higgins said. “Everybody will love it.”


However, for blue-collar workers the idea is more problematic, he said. Still, he estimates that for about 30 or 40 per cent of the population four-day work weeks could be doable and beneficial.