Panasonic is reportedly introducing an optional four-day workweek for employees, allowing its workers to spend less time working and more time actually enjoying being alive. It’s one more small push toward a better world where shorter working weeks are the norm.
Announced during an investor briefing on Friday, Panasonic will offer its workers a third day off per week, with Panasonic CEO Kusumi Yuki noting they may opt to further their studies, volunteer, or even work a side job. Last year, Japan’s annual economic policy guidelines revealed the country would encourage employers to adopt four-day workweeks.
“We must support the wellbeing of our employees,” said Kusumi, as reported by Nikkei Asia.
Hoping to facilitate better work-life balance in its workforce, the electronics manufacturer is also increasing flexibility by allowing more employees to work from home, and giving them the freedom to turn down job transfers that require them to move. Panasonic declined to comment to Mashable on whether these new policies will apply to all employees globally, nor whether hours or compensation will be adjusted to offset workers’ reduced days.
“The well-being of our employees is a priority and it is important that we communicate and promote an understanding of this purpose and the significance of this system from the management team to organization managers and all employees,” Panasonic spokesperson Airi Minobe told Mashable. “The system can only be properly introduced after thorough discussions in the workplace. We are prepared to take time for all necessary dialogue to take place and don’t foresee its implementation until April 2023 at the earliest.”
The four-day workweek is an ephemeral dream that has long been dangled before workers like an oasis in a desert. In 2021, Iceland reported that the world’s largest trial of a shorter workweek saw significant gains in workers’ happiness, health, and productivity. Microsoft Japan trialed a four-day workweek to great success in 2019, boosting productivity by almost 40 percent. And New Zealand firm Perpetual Guardian permanently switched to a four-day workweek in 2018, after a two-month trial saw a 20 percent boost in productivity.
Reduced workdays have been tested and retested all over the world for years, and the results have consistently shown positive results. Yet despite overwhelming evidence of its benefits for employees and employers alike, the shorter workweek remains largely elusive. Companies continue to drag their feet, claiming it isn’t feasible, they’re a special case, and that it just wouldn’t work if applied to their particular industry.
Still, with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic prompting increasing worker dissatisfaction, more employers may be inspired to rethink their stance in light of the growing anti-work movement.
UPDATE: Jan. 11, 2022, 4:40 p.m. This article has been updated with comments from Panasonic.