While still far from a mainstream concept, the subject of the ‘four-day week work’ has become one of the more intriguing ongoing debate in modern society. In the past, we’ve covered the results that the Nordic nation of Iceland saw as they began to transition their work structure towards a four-day system, most of which appeared to be resoundingly positive. Kiwi entrepreneur Andrew Barnes has been a long time advocate of the four-day system and laid out the blueprint on our M2 Podcast series back in 2020. Incremental progress has been made on the issue in the two years since and this week, high-profile Japanese electronic company Panasonic became the latest major name to announce it would be making the leap. Panasonic CEO Yuki Kusami revealed the news in an investor briefing, remarking that “Our responsibility is to strike an ideal balance between the work style and life style for our diverse human capital.”
Panasonic’s decision comes on the back of recommendations from the Japanese government for companies to consider making the move to four-day work weeks, and fellow domestic companies, Encourage Technologies and Shionogi, are set to join them in the coming months. Japan’s potential work culture metamorphosis is particularly noteworthy, given its long-held reputation as one of the ‘first-world’ most workaholic cultures. In 2020, the number of Japanese companies offering employees more than two days off sat at around 8%, and that number is expected to grow in the coming years.
Additional to the extra day-off for employees, Panasonic are making a number of other adjustments to their system in an effort to appease the needs of their employees, including encouraging more opportunities to work from home, another arrangement that has come under the microscope around the world in the wake of COVID-19. The moves are likely made with competition in mind, as the company looks to separate themselves in an increasingly competitive market for tech companies seeking emerging talent worldwide.
Recent news of San Francisco e-commerce startup Bolt making the permanent switch to the four-day system after seeing excellent results during a three-month trial period has re-ignited the conversation in the United States, who have a similarly lopsided work-lifestyle dynamic to Japan. Internal surveying at Bolt found that 94% of employees were in favour of the change and the company almost doubled its head count during the trial period. Bolt founder and CEO Ryan Breslow remarked in an interview with People that he believes the worldwide transition to a four-day week “isn’t an ‘if’ for most companies, it’s a ‘when’”.
Who knows, there might soon be a day where a major business dropping a workday might be so commonplace that it no longer qualifies as newsworthy. However, for the time being, as with every company and nation which has made themselves an ‘early adopter’ of the much-debated concept, the world will be eagerly observing how the new circumstances impact the major conglomerates financial performance, as well as how the changes are received by employees, management and investors.