Hitachi introduces new flexible system allowing staff to opt for a four-day work week aiming to boost employee engagement and productivity. 

Japanese multinational conglomerate Hitachi is restructuring the way their employees work with a new flexible arrangement that allows them to choose their own schedule. Hitachi is joining other large Japanese and global corporations that have introduced the four-day work week since the ongoing pandemic affected a shift in the way we work.

This move aims to attract new hires, boost productivity, and improve employee wellbeing. Panasonic Holdings and NEC are other Japanese brands exploring offering this option to their staff. NEC will introduce a four-day work week by the end of the current fiscal year for 20,000 employees to start, and Panasonic will also trial this at its holdings company and some subsidiaries this fiscal year.

“If we have more flexibility regarding where and when we work, we can improve productivity,” said Hidenobu Nakahata, Hitachi Senior Vice President and Executive Officer.

Hitachi will put their new system in place this financial year, from April 2022, for about 15,000 employees.

Employees will be able to work 9-10 hours Monday to Thursday, in contrast with the usual daily required 7 hours and 45 minutes, for an additional day off on Friday. Alternatively, staff can opt to work more hours at the start of the month in order to take time off at the end of the month. A former minimum of 3.75 hours required each working day will be dropped.

As businesses transform to become more service-oriented, emphasising the quality of work rather than quantity of working hours, along with the introduction of pandemic-induced remote work, they are starting to introduce more systems that accommodate flexible working solutions that do not sacrifice employee performance.

In further research conducted in 2021 by the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare in Japan, 8.5% of companies in the country are able to enable four-day work weeks already through their pre-existing systems. In June 2021, the Japanese government also included promoting four-day work weeks in its core policy.

In a survey conducted by Future Forum in November, it was found that around 95% of workers seek more flexibility for when they work. The University of Reading also conducted research which shows that 68% of 500 UK businesses that introduced a four-day work week to their employees reported that it helped with hiring, and 66% of those surveyed said it lowered operation costs.

In Europe and other parts of the world, a move towards four-day work weeks, has resulted in reduced hours with no loss in pay. Belgium’s government approved a four-day work week in February. However, Japanese companies may face additional challenges, for example employees working longer hours per day versus reducing some hours to accommodate for the shorter work week.

As more companies adopt the four-day work week, businesses will better be able to observe more productive ways to implement this strategy.


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