Four-Day Work Weeks Officially Backed By Japanese Government In Economic Policy

The five-day work week is a staple in modern culture. It's what pretty much all white-collar workers can expect to abide by — and really, nearly any job that isn't explicitly shift work for that matter.

But what about the four-daw work week? It's something we've heard whispers of, but very few employers offer. So to see the Japanese government officially back this kind of work model — as DW reports — is really something.

Content warning: this article briefly mentions suicide.

Japan is a hardworking country.

Unsplash | Jezael Melgoza

It's perhaps one of the things the country is most famous for: its hardworking population.

But there are many factors that are proving that this kind of workplace culture simply isn't as sustainable as it once was — or maybe that it wasn't all that sustainable in the first place.

The pandemic is definitely a huge factor.

Unsplash | Maxime

Over the last year, we've seen a lot of changes in how business have had to operate, and the white-collar office workers have experienced quite a shift.

Now that people are working from home, while being just as productive as they were in the office, it's becoming clear that new workplace models can likely work wonders.

Work-life balance is also a huge consideration.

Unsplash | Omar Lopez

Japan has seen declining birthrates in recent decades, leading to an aging population. DW reports that the Japanese government hopes to see an increase in births in the country with the adaptation of things such as a four-day work week and flexible hours.

The rationale is that if young people have more time, they can meet, get married, and have the time to take care of kids.

A shorter work week would help out in so many other ways, too.

With more time to themselves, Japanese citizens could go out shopping, thus stimulating the local economy, DW states. It could also be a chance for employers to cut down on the amount of office space they would need.

Most importantly, it would alleviate *so* much stress.

Japanese workers tend to put in a lot of overtime. According to DW, this can lead to what is known as "karoshi," or "death by overwork." The strain of working countless hours of overtime has caused employees to fall ill, and some have even taken their own lives.

With a shortened work week, there's less pressure to work overtime, and more time to spend relaxing.

And you can still be productive during a four-day week.

Unsplash | Andreas Klassen

According to Forbes, a four-day work week can be just as productive — if not more so — as the typical five-day model.

Microsoft Japan experimented with the idea in 2019, finding that employees who worked four days a week over a period of a few months were around 40% more productive.

Though, results could be skewed.

There's no telling if the increase in productivity would've continued if the four-day work week was implemented permanently in the company.

As Forbes states, employees could've been more productive because they were incentivized, and there's always the chance that productivity could eventually decrease as workers begin to take that extra day off for granted.

But it looks like this idea is here to stay.

Japan isn't the only country that's exploring the four-day work week. British company Unilever is conducting an experiment in their New Zealand branch, allowing employees to work for four days while being compensated for five.

And so many other countries too.

Unsplash | USGS

Forbes goes on to say that the Spanish government is in the midst of conducting a similar experiment wherein they will test a 32-hour work week over the span of three years, and use government funds to cover costs so that employees can still be compensated as if they were working five days.

Similarly, the Finnish prime minister, Sanna Marin, promotes the idea of both a six-hour work day and a four-hour work week.

Could this be our future?

Unsplash | Arlington Research

One thing that's been made clear is that, thanks to the pandemic, workplace culture has definitely changed. Does this mean that we could see more and more countries and companies shifting to a four-day work week model? And if so, would our productivity really increase?

h/t: DW, Forbes.

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