In Japan Companies are Introducing a 4-Day Working Week

Industry |

Most employees would love to have a 4 day working week with an extra day off at the weekends. In Japan, for workers in some companies, this is already reality and they are still getting paid for the full 5 days.

Could this be the future for work?

Japanese companies, much like their US counterparts, often expect employees to work long hours but now some of them are looking at the impact of this on quality of life. The four day week means employees have more quality time to spend with family and friends.

The idea has been taken up by approximately 6/9% of privately owned Japanese company. The move, by companies with 30+ employees, has been applauded by the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as a way of giving more flexibility to the workforce and allowing them the time to recuperate and take care of themselves. 

This 6.9% is an increase of 3.8% over the last 10 years but there are some concerns as well as benefits.

The Benefits

The move towards a 4 day working week has provided benefits to both employers and staff. 

 The employers see it as a way to attract new talent and, importantly, to retain them. Many find that their workforce is more than happy working a shorter week, that they report less stress and that their work-life balance has improved.

The Downside

The major downside is that although the number of days worked have been reduced, the hours worked each day have increased from 8 to 10 hours each day. If these hours are added to commute times workers appear to have less time to themselves after work. 

In addition there are concerns about the impact of the new working hours on pay increases, prospects and promotion.

Global Trends

Despite the concerns other countries are also embracing the idea of shorter working areas and a number of different variations have appeared. In San Francisco, Monograph, the software company, has instituted “the mid-weekend” where employees have Wednesday off as well as the usual weekend.

New Zealand company Perpetual Garden cut their employees week from 40 to 32 hours as a trial back in 2018. The trial, which reduced hours but not pay, was so successful it has now been made permanent. 

The trial found that reducing hours made employees more effective and creative and also increased loyalty to the company.

In the United States the idea has taken root in some of the school districts of Colorado, Montana and Oklahoma with reduced working hours being a success with both students and faculty.

In Japan there are currently only a small percentage of workers who have started the four day week but it shows potential and could find its way into the mainstream.

According to the president of a job-matching service, Hiroaki Nagai, the new way of working presents a way forward for those in labor-intensive industries, shift workers, medical staff and workers in hospitality. In the meantime other countries continue to trial the idea within Europe and in Australia.