The four-day work week may feel like a distant dream for those experiencing burnout, but companies have been experimenting with the idea. The latest company to implement a four-day work week is the Japanese electronics conglomerate Panasonic.
In a case study by think tank Autonomy, it was found that a shorter work week had a positive impact on people in Iceland. On top of that, the study, that monitored 2,500 participants over four years, found that less time in work can actually improve productivity.
Panasonic is changing the length of the working week to purely focus on the health of employees. According to Nikkei, president and group CEO Yuki Kusumi reasoned that the move should be made because “we must support the wellbeing of our employees”.
The full details of this new working week have yet to be ironed out, but during an investors briefing, it was postulated that workers could pursue a different interest, side-job, or take time to themselves on this new day-off.
Implementing a four-day week
Currently, only 8% of Japanese companies offer more than two days off a week according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. This includes companies like Yahoo Japan and Sompo Himawari Life Insurance who implemented a four-day week in 2017 for those with children or elderly relatives.
There has been a re-evaluation of the applicability of a shorter week during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pharmaceutical company Shionogi and systems developer Encourage Technologies has implemented an optional third-day off.
Shionogi noted that this would allow staff to commit to training programs, while Encourage Technologies found that the shorter working week helped with recruiting new talent.
Other experiments within the country have shown the benefits of working fewer days and when Microsoft Japan tested the idea in 2019, almost 90% of workers appreciated the new measure. Additionally, Microsoft cut down on electricity costs.
Evidently, there are positives to implementing shorter working weeks, but many companies around the world are still unconvinced. The fears are logical, fewer working days means a lesser output. There are also concerns about working with other companies that have a standard work week.
Eliminating the latter worry would require huge global change, and that seems unlikely. Although countries like the UAE have already begun reducing the five-day work week to four and a half, and this could prompt further considerations.
Whether other companies follow suit or not, by making this shift Panasonic could become a more attractive company to candidates, improve the welfare of employees, and even boost its productivity.