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Japanese Companies Are Beginning To Embrace A 4-Day Workweek, And The Internet Is Raving

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Having a three-day weekend is every employee’s dream. Imagine that being your life every single week! Well, that’s what happening in Japan currently. A few companies are letting their employees work a four-day week while still paying them for five days in the office. Is it working and could it possibly be the future for workers all over the world?

Changing The Workplace

Much like in the United States, Japanese companies are known for their long work hours. Employees would spend most of their time at the office instead of spending quality time with family and friends, or even just taking care of errands or relaxing at home. However, a few companies are breaking out of that box by allowing their employees to work a four-day week instead of five. They would then enjoy a three-day weekend every week. As of 2018, according to a labor ministry survey, 6.9 percent of privately held companies with 30 or more full-time employees had introduced this concept in some way. A decade ago, that figure was 3.1 percent. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has supported the idea, hoping that it gives employees more flexibility and time to take care of themselves and their loved ones. However, with every idea, there are benefits and concerns.

Pros And Cons

For employers, providing options may be a way to attract and retain talented employees. A few companies have found that workers are happier with a shorter week. There seem to be lower levels of stress and somewhat improved work-life balance. However, the major catch of this four-day workweek in Japan is that employees have to work 10 hours a day instead of the standard eight. With those hours in addition to commuting time, it’s possible that workers won’t have as much time after work for themselves as they did before. There have also been concerns as to whether workers be discriminated against in terms of pay raises and promotions compared with those who work five days. “I think it is imperative for us to monitor that employees using the system don’t receive significantly poorer treatment and, mainly through labor unions, call for balanced treatment,” Jun Imai, a professor of labor sociology at Sophia University, told The Japan Times.

A Global Trend

Nonetheless, employees working shorter hours is slowly becoming a trend not only in Japan but at different companies from all over the world. There are different variations that companies are trying. For example, San Francisco software company Monograph offers employees Wednesdays off (affectionately known as the “the mid-weekend.”). That’s in addition to Saturday and Sunday off.

In 2018, New Zealand firm Perpetual Guardian did a six-week trial for employees, slashing their work week from 40 hours to 32 while giving them the same pay. The firm has made the change permanent. “If you reduce work hours, people are able to focus their attention more effectively, they end up producing just as much, often with higher quality and creativity, and they are also more loyal to the organizations that are willing to give them the flexibility to care about their lives outside of work,” said Adam Grant, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, at the 2019 World Economic Forum.

School districts in the United States, including in Colorado, Montana, and Oklahoma, are trying the trend as well, which can be a win for both teachers and students. Currently, there aren’t too many people in Japan taking advantage of the four-hour work week but the idea could potentially become mainstream. Hiroaki Nagai, president of a Japanese job-matching service that focuses on four-day workweek regular positions, believes that this idea could be more compatible with shift work and labor-intensive sectors, including those that work in medical and welfare services, and at restaurants and hotels. More and more countries are trying out the idea including some in Europe and in Australia.

Only time will tell if this idea will truly take hold in the country and throughout the world. However, people online seem to believe that shortening the workweek would be a great change. Check out some reactions to the idea below.

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