- Microsoft recently implemented a four-day workweek at a subsidiary in Japan, leading to a 40% productivity increase.
- A four-day workweek can either mean that employees work a traditional 40 hour week over four days, or that they work four typical eight-hour days totalling 32 hours per week.
- A 30 hour workweek was popular in the early 20th century, but support dropped off following the Great Depression. Now, some companies are experimenting with the idea again.
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A 40-hour, five-day workweek from Monday to Friday has been considered the standard schedule in the US since at least the Great Depression, even though almost a third of US workers today don’t work that way.
Throughout the 20th century, scholars and activists predicted a decrease in hours the average worker would be on the clock as productivity increased. In 1928, economist John Maynard Keynes predicted a 15-hour workweek within a century. In 1965, a Senate subcommittee predicted an even shorter 14-hour workweek by 2000, with seven weeks of vacation.
Some high-profile tech executives, like Google cofounder Larry Page, have praised the premise of a four-day workweek, and studies have shown that it could have benefits like decreasing burnout and lessening gender inequality.
However, a four-day workweek has yet to take hold on a large scale.
Microsoft is the most recent example of a company experimenting with the idea. The Seattle-based tech giant recently implemented a four-day workweek in Japan, which led to a 40% jump in productivity. The company closed the office on Fridays in August and limited meetings, which made employees more productive than the previous August, despite working fewer hours.
Here’s a history of how the four-day workweek began.