The employees were obviously quite delighted, however, the tech giant observed that their productivity actually increased by 40% with their 2,300 employees getting all Fridays off.
Although four-day weeks are not unheard of, this is the first time a big business like Microsoft has proven it effective.
Microsoft Japan trialled 4-day workweeks in August
For a month in August this year, Microsoft Japan gave paid offs to its 2,300 employees on all five Fridays under the 'Work-Life Choice Challenge 2019 Summer'.
Additionally, the company also introduced more effective meetings, no longer than 30 minutes, and encouraged online meetings.
In their downtime, employees were encouraged to rest and learn to "further improve productivity and creativity."
Productivity rose by 40%; company saved on paper, electricity
Microsoft Japan observed that its labor productivity increased by 39.9% in August as compared to the same period the previous year.
Further, the company noted that employees took 25.4% fewer days off during the period, printed 58.7% fewer pages, and also saved 23.1% electricity.
Consequently, not only was Microsoft's trial more effective labor-wise, but it also ended up saving money.
92.1% Microsoft employees said they prefer 4-day workweeks
At the end of the trial, 92.1% of Microsoft employees said they preferred the four day work week. Further, 97.1% of employees noted an impact on satisfaction in their consciousness or behavior in their personal lives while 96.5% noted the same impact for work.
Microsoft to test another trial during winter
Based off of the August trial, Microsoft Japan now looks forward to its 'Work-Life Choice Challenge 2019 Winter' project.
Unlike the summer edition, this one doesn't involve reducing working hours.
The staff would, however, be encouraged to "rest smartly" and "work in a short time" in the winter edition. The company will seek suggestions from employees on how to work, rest, and learn.
In Japan, people die from overworking, and it's called 'karoshi'
In Japan, workaholism is a problem so rampant, that not only have overworked employees died, there's also a term for stress-induced death from overworking—karoshi.
The issue made global headlines when an employee of Japanese advertising firm Dentsu killed herself on Christmas Day in 2015 after working punishingly-long hours.
In 2017, a Japanese reporter also died after logging 159 hours of overtime in a month.