Microsoft restricted meetings to a maximum of 30 minutes and limited the number of participants to five. The company also encouraged online chats as an alternative to face-to-face communications as well as emails.

Wrapping up work on a Friday evening could be an enticing prospect, but would it not be better if you could do the same a day early? Microsoft recently undertook a trial of making its employees in Japan work for four-day weeks. The results were surprising – productivity of its employees shot up. According to reports, the trial not only saw costs being cut, it also boosted sales.

Microsoft’s Japan unit closed its offices every Friday in August, giving all of its 2,300 full-time workers special leave.

It also restricted meetings to a maximum of 30 minutes and limited the number of participants to five. The company also encouraged online chats as an alternative to face-to-face communications as well as emails.

The radical idea saw sales per employee rising almost 40 per cent in August from a year earlier. Electricity consumption also went down by a quarter and paper usage dipped to half.

Microsoft Japan said that the trial showed that employees want to have a variety of ways of working. It added that efficiency could see a boost if the model is adopted more broadly.

The company plans to launch a similar programme this winter but won’t offer special leaves, it stated. Employees will, however, be encouraged to use their existing holidays.

The Japanese government is pushing for more “flexible work styles”, and has urged businesses to accept different part-time schedules, off-peak commuting as well as telecommuting.

Japan is infamous for its work culture. This trial is part of an attempt to address the issue of ‘death from overwork’ or ‘karoshi’.

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