Keidanren to Propose Four-day Workweek to Limit Virus Spread

Japan business lobby plans to recommend that companies adopt a four-day workweek for employees to avoid COVID-19 infection

four-day workweek
Factories in Japan

The Japan Business Federation, or Keidanren, plans to suggest that member companies implement a four-day workweek as one of the measures to reduce the risks of further coronavirus infections when work in offices and factories resumes.

The suggestion to reduce the workweek from five to four days a week was revealed in the Keidanren’s draft guidelines on how workers can safely return to work and be protected from the virus.

Additional measures to ensure staff safety

In an effort to keep numbers on public transportation down during commuting hours, the guidelines from the lobby group advise companies to encourage staff to work remotely where possible, and alternate commuting times and work schedules.

Employees will be requested to check their temperature before coming in to work to prevent anyone who may be carrying the virus from spreading it to other staff in the office or factory. If someone is experiencing a fever they will be required to stay at home for at least 48 hours, regardless of any improvement to their condition.

The draft guidelines also call for the safety measures to apply to both temporary and permanent employees, taking into account that some companies only permit permanent staff to work from home.

The Keidanren guidelines are set to be announced on Thursday and will be in effect until the threat of the virus has passed and the safety of workers can be guaranteed.

In July last year Microsoft Japan ran a trial giving its staff the opportunity to work for only four days a week, instead of five

Toshiba to open factories with four-day week

Toshiba Corp. is one Japanese company that has already decided to adopt a four-day workweek to try to protect manufacturing staff at its factories from COVID-19 infection.

The company, in agreement with its labour union, aims to introduce the new system in June and it will apply to around 10,000 workers from its domestic workforce of 76,000, according to Toshiba officials.

Toshiba’s offices and factories in Japan have been closed since April 20 to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but they are scheduled to reopen from Thursday. However, employees other than manufacturing staff will continue to work remotely.

Microsoft four-day workweek trial increased productivity

It is possible that companies may in fact find a four-day workweek has other benefits, in addition to reducing the spread of the coronavirus.

In July last year Microsoft Japan ran a trial giving its staff the opportunity to work for only four days a week, instead of five. The employees were able to enjoy a three-day weekend while also earning their normal full-time salary.

What the tech company found during that time was that productivity increased by 40 per cent. It also became more efficient in other areas, including a reduction in electricity bills and 60 per cent fewer pages being printed.

How would you feel about having a four-day workweek? Do you think it’s an effective measure to prevent the virus spread? Or a great way to improve your work-life balance? Share your thoughts in the comments.

"Otsumami" - a bite size snack:

Strict protective measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 are necessary if work in offices and factories is to resume.

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