4-day workweeks are better for business, Microsoft finds – and how to maximize your time at the office

Sales per employee rose nearly 40%.

Here's more proof that a four-day workweek could increase a company's bottom line.

Microsoft tested out a four-day workweek experiment in Japan and found there was a major increase in productivity levels when work hours were cut to promote a better work-life balance. Employees actually sold more, while the company reduced spending on overhead costs.

The tech giant closed offices on Fridays in August and gave its 2,300 workers a three-day weekend for its "Work-Life Choice Challenge" to see if workers could get more done with a shorter workweek. Sales per employee rose nearly 40%, compared to sales from the same time period last year, according to the company report.

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Microsoft attributed the boost in sales and productivity to capping meetings to 30 minutes and allowing more employees to attend conferences remotely, presumably cutting commuting time. The four-day workweek also helped the company reduce spending on overhead costs. Microsoft said it used 23.1 percent less electricity and printed 58.7 percent fewer pages during the four-day workweek test run.

Time management experts say workers get more done when they have a shorter amount of time to do it.

"It's the power of the deadline. You can always drag something out ⁠— a task or a project ⁠— but when there's a hard deadline, the structure can help people focus to accomplish the task," Rashelle Isip, a productivity consultant and author of "31 Days to get organized in the New Year," told FOX Business.

The average American works 34.4 hours per week, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But studies have shown that productivity is at its highest when people are working less, and output drops after people clock in more than 48 hours per week, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The four-day workweek has been tested in a number of international markets. Last year, the New Zealand Perpetual Guardian, which manages wills, estates and trusts, tested out letting employees work 32 hours a week instead of 40 while still getting paid the same. The company reported a 24 percent improvement in work-life balance with employees coming back to work feeling refreshed after their days off.


Other countries have cut work hours during the day to improve employee productivity. A city in Sweden tested out a six-hour workday and found that workers did the same amount of work if not more. Deloitte and KPMG have also implemented flexible work hours and a four-day workweek though workers are still responsible for clocking in their full 40 hours during those days. Even Danny Meyer's gourmet burger chain Shake Shack has experimented with shorter work schedules. Last year, CEO Randy Garutti said at an investor conference that he hoped the new work perk helped attract more employees amid the tight labor market and high turnover rate in the hospitality space.

Isip says planning your days ahead of time can help employees get more done before they get into the office.

"Prioritize projects at the beginning of the day and then at the end of the day. This can help people really focus on what's truly important and what needs to be done as opposed to walking into work and working on anything," Isip explained.

Another way to maximize time, she says, is setting alarms or calendar reminders for when a task should be completed by. She also suggests working on small tasks ahead of time to prepare for bigger projects.


"Practice getting things in motion," Isip said. "If you know you have a project, or have to connect with someone in two weeks' time, take that first step and send that email. Can you book that appointment? Get that momentum started so you're not waiting until the last minute."