Panasonic has announced plans to offer Japan employees a four-day work week in an effort to improve productivity and attract better workers, according to a new report Nikkei Asia. The move comes after the Japanese government made official recommendations to private employers in 2021 that included a shorter work week.
The four-day work week floated around the world in various forms from Finland to New Zealand. Sometimes shorter weeks just mean employers extend four days of work while keeping something close to 40 hours. The second time, companies will actually offer a shorter week with fewer total hours, so people can spend more free time or more education.
“We need to support the well-being of our employees,” President and CEO Yuki Kusumi said recently, Nikkei reports.
Panasonic hopes to give workers more time to pursue their personal interests, whether volunteering or ancillary work. Details will be ironed out by each operating company.
Only 8% of Japanese companies offered more than two guaranteed days off per week in the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Welfare survey 2020. Those who do so usually want to help workers meet the demands of their personal lives, such as Yahoo Japan and Sompo Himawari Life Insurance , who started offering the third day off in 2017 only to those caring for children or elderly relatives.
Companies that tried a shorter work week while retaining a competitive wage generally found no loss of productivity. In fact, technology companies have found that reducing working hours often leads to high productivity, not to mention greater satisfaction among the workforce. When Microsoft tested the four-day work week in Japan in 2019, productivity increased by 40%, according to Washington Post.
Despite having a reputation for workaholic culture in the U.S., Japanese workers actually work fewer hours than their U.S. counterparts, according to the latest data from Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The United States ranked 11th in the number of hours worked by the average worker among OECD countries, while Japan ranked 26th. The first five, in turn, included: Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, South Korea and Russia.
Americans have been promised a shorter work week for generations. In fact, 1960s economic experts were sure that by now we would only be working a 16-hour work week, and robots would do most of the work. Your only problem will be what you will be doing with all your free time.
An article published in a North Carolina newspaper at November 26, 1967. promised everything:
Those hungry for free time from work can be encouraged by the prediction of political scientist Sebastian de Grazie that the average working week until 2000 will last an average of 31 hours, and perhaps only 21 hours. Twenty years later, working hours may have been reduced to 26 and even 16.
But what will people do with all that free time? The prospects may not be happy.
As De Grazia sees it: “There is reason to fear, as some do, that leisure, forced leisure, will lead to restless boredom, unemployment, immorality and increased personal violence. If the cause is identified as automation and a propensity for higher intelligence, non-automated jobs may increase, but will carry the stigma of stupidity. Men would rather not work than accept them. Those who accept will increasingly become a politically inferior class. ”
One possible solution: separation of income from work; perhaps a guaranteed annual salary that will provide “the amount needed for a free life for all those who think they have temperament”.
Where did all that free time go? Your boss used it to buy his second home.