Consumer electronics conglomerate Panasonic is the recent addition to the list of employers that offer four-day workweeks in Japan, Nikkei Asia reported. The company recently announced that it would shortly begin offering a third day off to individuals who are interested.
Four-day workweeks have been in experimental trials for the most part of the last decade but have found more attention during the pandemic as employees have worked largely from home and found it difficult to balance work and home commitments. The experiment in Iceland is often cited when it comes to large-scale trials of a four-day work schedule that proves that productivity is not affected by shortened work weeks
A shortened work schedule is likely to improve work-life balance for employees, and Panasonic’s move is mainly aimed at improving employee well-being, Nikkei Asia reported. It also follows the Japanese government’s policy stance that suggests the change in work schedule will boost the local economy which has remained sluggish during the course of the pandemic. While details of the change have not been spelled out by Panasonic, the company hopes that people will use the extra day off to pursue personal interests.
Nikkei Asia has reported that some companies in Japan have been offering an extra day off to their employees since 2017 to those that are caring for children or for the elderly. But more and more companies have started adopting this policy in 2021 to attract and retain talent as well. However, the increased interest still accounts for only eight percent of companies that offer these options to employees in Japan.
A major hurdle in the adoption is the link between wages and the number of days worked, the report said. Another factor associated with the low uptake of this change is the Japanese culture of overwork that encourages employees to put in extra hours beyond the statutory requirement without even an overtime payment.
However, as Gizmodo pointed out, Americans fare worse than the Japanese when it comes to overtime. According to the latest data compiled by the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the number of hours annually worked by an average worker in the U.S. is over 12 percent higher than those put in by their Japanese counterparts.
Four-day workweeks have been part of the American dream for over a generation now with estimates suggesting that one would have to work for not more than 26 hours in this decade, Gizmodo reported. Yet, here we are where the tiny nation of Scotland is carrying out four-day workweek trials while only five percent of Americans have a four-day workweek option, according to a New York Times report.