Microsoft launched a four-day workweek experiment earlier this year in one of the most unlikely places: Japan.

But even in a country known for its culture of extreme overwork, the shorter week had a big boost on productivity, the company's business unit said in a post on its website.

The test run, which took place in August and gave employees five consecutive Fridays off, boosted sales per employee by 40 percent compared to the same month a year earlier, according to the post.

The number of pages printed in the office fell by 59%, electricity consumption dropped 23%, and 94% of employees were satisfied with the program.

The month long test was billed as being part of a "work life choice" strategy aimed at helping employees work more flexibly and comes amid ongoing labor reforms throughout the country.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has introduced caps on overtime hours and raised incomes on part-time and temporary workers as part of his labor practice reforms, which have been contentious at times.

Yet it is also the latest example of a growing global movement to experiment with the concept of a four day workweek as tight labor market conditions continue, technology offers increased flexibility and reports proliferate that some workplaces have seen beneficial results from working four days and then being off three.

In the U.S., burger chain Shake Shack said it was trying the idea.

In the U.K., the four-day week has been backed by some of the biggest unions in Ireland and Britain, and the Labour Party commissioned a study on the idea. (It found that a cap on the length of the working week would be unrealistic.)

In New Zealand, a trusts and investment advisory firm called Perpetual Guardian started an eight-week trial across the company where employees worked 30 hours a week but were paid for 37.5 hours. It has since said the change will be permanent on an opt-in basis after reporting that job performance was maintained and staff stress levels and engagement both improved.

Some smaller companies that have tried the idea cheer its benefits, from greater work-life balance to more employee productivity. But they have said it can lead to workers pushing the limits on long weekend scheduling and result in stressful workdays. Some have warned the push could cut workers' pay and say a nudge toward reducing hours rather than legislating a cap is more desirable.

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