This week, the world learned about an impressive experiment at Microsoft Japan: During the summer, workers began coming in for just four days a week. That's not to say they were on call for a fifth day at home — employees really just worked four days each week, but got paid for five.
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The results were massive. Productivity rose a full 40 percent. Meetings got shorter, if they happened at all. Electricity costs went down. With a three-day weekend every week, work-life balance improved across the board.
It seems almost magical, but it's not limited to one Japanese company. Others have found similar success with cutting down on work hours, whether it's encouraging workplace flexibility or cutting off access to work necessities on weekends. There are both tons of studies and anecdotal evidence about the need to cut down on and fend off burnout. It does matter, however, how a company institutes these changes — they're not an automatic fix-it.
In 2017, for example, Ohio State University researchers found that implementing four-day weekdays that are simply longer often do far more harm than good. "Most of the studies I have performed suggest that the dangers are most pronounced when people regularly work more than 12 hours per day or 60 hours per week," wrote study author Allard Dembe in The Conversation. It could be worth exploring a path toward getting more done in fewer hours on the job. Just make sure you're not replicating the conditions that make overwork harmful in the first place.