Friday Food For Thought: Is teleworking the future and Japan its pioneer?

Before home offices and Zoom calls, there was teleworking, a solution for businesses in countries which frequently saw extreme weather to keep people working when getting to the office was all but impossible. Now, of course, with the advent of increasingly sophisticated technologies and the necessity imposed by COVID-19, teleworking has become the norm for many. In fact, in a survey by the Mainichi Newspaper of 126 Japanese companies, 90% said they would continue telework after the pandemic. The article suggests that one key factor making telework attractive to companies is their unaccountability for unpaid overtime. A constant struggle prior to COVID, overtime in the workplace has been a major issue for Japanese companies with some employees working themselves into an early grave doing 159 hours overtime a month. Under the National Labour Act, however, companies are not liable if their employees do not honestly report the hours they work. Furthermore, working hours are less structured through telework: there is no first and last train to catch; the office does not physically close; and it is difficult for employees to separate work time from personal time.

I for one question the practical implementation of widespread telework in Japan. In my own experience, I have been shocked numerous times at how some supposedly technologically advanced Japanese companies have websites which are digital relics from the 1990s. While Japan may be a great innovator of technology, it is certainly not a great implementer.

What changes do you think telework would make for work life in Japan and elsewhere? What elements of working (or studying) from home do you enjoy or struggle with? Let us know in the comments below or in the MAIJS Forum.

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