Medtronic and the shorter workweek

The Asia-Pacific division of Medtronic, the world’s biggest medical device maker, is pioneering a new way to shorten working hours.

In most of the companies I discuss in SHORTER, working hours are shortened like this. You first have a planning phase where you map out the new workday, think about how you can use technology more effectively, identify inefficiencies and old practices to be eliminated or prned back, and make contingency plans to deal with everything that can go wrong as a result of a shorter workweek. Then, you do a 90-day trial in which you test-drive the new workweek, make adjustments, see how your company performs, and gauge reaction from clients.

Medtronic, in contrast, is approaching a shorter workweek in a different way.

A couple years ago, APAC head Chris Lee offered Medtronic national offices a challenge: they could “have one hour less work every Friday in exchange of two consecutive quarters of achieving targets,” he writes on LinkedIn. Lee has a long career in the pharmaceutical industry, a sector not known for its laid-back approach to business, but “I firmly believe that long working hours don’t necessarily translate into better outcomes,” he says. “The quality of work can be improved substantially when you have more motivated and happier employees.” Recently,

Medtronic Korea became the first country in APAC region to celebrate a half day Friday every week thanks to their outstanding performance for the past two years. It’s now well on its way to possibly become the first APAC country ever in our industry to enjoy 4 days a week soon! Medtronic Singapore and Japan are catching up.

Why offer the program? “[W]e believe in work-life integration,” the company says on LinkedIn. “We also believe in performance-based benefits.”

For large companies that worry that a 4-day week could be too big a change, a program like this could be a good middle ground. It might also offer different divisions or countries the option of pursuing the goal collectively— by looking for ways to make the whole company more productive— or by leaving it up to individuals to find ways to work smarter.

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