Japan is the most overworked workforce in the world and yet they have one of the lowest productivities. 30% of organisations in Japan expect their workers to clock up an additional 80 hours per month of overtime, so let’s just think about that for a second. So you are already required to work statutory 40 hours per week and then required to work for another 4 hours every day. It is no surprise they are the least productive. When it comes to productivity at work the law of diminishing return is relevant. There comes a point during the day when you have spent your mental capacity on planning, thinking, delivering, and writing emails where for every hour you stay you become less effective – less productive – you start to make mistakes and actually do more harm than good.
As quoted from Guardian
The shortened weeks led to more efficient meetings, happier workers, and boosted productivity by a staggering 40%, the company concluded at the end of the trial. “Work a short time, rest well and learn a lot,” Microsoft Japan president and CEO Takuya Hirano said in a statement to Microsoft Japan’s website. “I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20% less working time.” In addition to the increased productivity, employees took 25% less time off during the trial and electricity use was down 23% in the office with the additional day off per week. Employees printed 59% fewer pages of paper during the trial. The vast majority of employees – 92% – said they liked the shorter week. Employees reported experiencing better work–life balance and improved focus in the office. Staff stress levels decreased by 7%.”
I started to think about my own experience and the empirical evidence certainly suggests the data from the Microsoft pilot holds true in the UK as well. On days where I need to be out of the office at 14.00 to catch a flight in afternoon I get about 20-30% more work done in those 5 hours than on a normal 8-9 hour work day. You don’t waste time by the coffee machine, less time for chit-chat, you focus on your tasks and quickly get on with the next one. This really is a case of where less is more. It would be interesting to see more data from around the world and if the data supports shorter work days then organisations should start to implement new work schedules for the benefit of higher productivity.