Remote Work in Japan—This year’s spring discussions between management and labor are expected to focus heavily on flexible working arrangements. Unions ask that firms encourage remote working and address difficulties such as juggling work and family life. Employee motivation and productivity must be taken into account, but individual circumstances must be considered.
Confederation of workers’ unions at electronics manufacturers and other businesses, known as the Japanese Electrical Electronics Information Union, urges members to participate in shunto or labor-management negotiations.
The creation of procedures for determining if employees are stressed will be a significant focus of the negotiations. While the coronavirus pandemic has increased the number of people working remotely, a study last summer of roughly 10,000 union members found that among those who said they worked remotely almost every day, 46.3% of men and 47.2% of women reported fear about not being able to communicate.
In the words of a union representative, “Remote employment gives a flexible manner of working and promotes work efficiency. Workplaces should consider introducing or revising remote work arrangements to fit the needs of their employees.”
The Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) asks companies to specify workplace norms relevant to eligibility for remote work and changes in working conditions when remote work is introduced. Rengo is urging firms not to discriminate against non-regular workers, such as denying them the opportunity to work remotely for no legitimate reason.
The confederation also wants to know who is responsible for the costs of remote working. Companies should foot the bill for items like computers, anti-virus software, and internet access, according to Rengo.
This union confederation UA Zensen seeks to extend programs that allow parents to work fewer hours up to the third grade in the elementary school system. Workers who have children under the age of three can use the provisions of the child and family care leave law.
For the first time, international workers’ working conditions are discussed in the negotiations. To combat discrimination in the workplace, UA Zensen advocates for the translation of employment rules into several languages and for inspections to check for discriminatory treatment. Human rights are becoming more critical as foreign workers in the restaurant and retail industries grow.
Flexibility in the workplace is already becoming a reality in certain businesses. In April, restrictions on where employees can live will be lifted, allowing them to dwell anywhere in Japan. Workers will be able to go to and from work by plane, express rail, and express bus, which are currently restricted.
Other businesses, like Mercari Inc., are implementing systems that let employees pick their places to reside. There will be a progressive decrease in the number of group employees being transferred, whether or not their families are included. In addition, the company intends to make remote work the primary mode of operation.
To put it another way, the Japan Productivity Center projects that Japan’s labor productivity per hour will be $49.50 in 2020, placing it 23rd out of the OECD’s 38 member countries (OECD). Japanese GDP per capita is at its lowest level since comparable statistics began to be kept in 1970 – Japan has been in last place for 51 straight years.
For businesses to survive, they must build workplaces welcoming to a wide range of workers, including women, the elderly, and immigrants. According to Recruit Works Institute senior researcher Yasuko Oshima, it’s critical to design systems that each person can live with. “However, merely introducing such systems will not suffice. “We need to consider how they’ll be used in practice.”
The Basics of Remote Work in Japan
In light of the rapid spread of the highly contagious omicron version of the new coronavirus, Japanese corporations are taking steps to promote remote work by their staff further.
Daishiro Yamagiwa, Japan’s Minister of Economic Revitalization, called on the heads of Japan’s leading three business organizations, including the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), to boost up efforts to use remote labor in the face of a worsening infection scenario.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made a similar request earlier this week.
Japan’s businesses are ready to step up their efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 infections in response to government requests.
Mazda Motor Corp., which is based in Hiroshima, informed its employees on Friday of a decision to put more robust COVID-19 measures in place, including a ban on business trips, both domestic and international, as well as events and group dining in principle, in the wake of the recent earthquake and tsunami. Remote work reduces the number of office employees at the back-office parts of all domestic bases to 30 percent or less.
Around 20% of NTT’s group companies in Hiroshima, Yamaguchi Prefecture, and Okinawa Prefecture’s workforce are devoted to back-office work. This is the company’s limit.
According to an NTT official, remote work has taken root within the company, resulting in a lower percentage than the previous level of roughly 30%.
Because of the new coronavirus, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, and Okinawa have been in a state of emergency.
Daiwa Securities Group Inc. permitted remote work and staggered commuting for its staff amid the epidemic as part of its business continuity preparations.
A large trading firm reduced the number of people working in the office and limited the number of dining in a group starting on Tuesday.
Despite this, a large number of businesses are continuing to use the present security procedures.
According to a representative of a big retailer, “it’s challenging to reduce the number of employees on the ground while still achieving our goal of having 40% of our headquarters work remotely.”
Members of the Keidanren have been urged to use remote work systems more frequently.
“Countermeasures could differ depending on sectors and places,” Masakazu Tokura, chairman of the company, stated.
With over 764,000 cases and roughly 13,800 COVID-related deaths, Japan has escaped the worst of the pandemic. As a result, Japan has had to proclaim three state emergencies due to four separate outbreaks. The number of “serious” cases hit a record-breaking 1,413 on May 28 in the current fourth wave, which has seen instances rise as high as 6,000 per day in mid-May.
As a result, the government has not legally mandated that workers stay at home or keep their employers at home. Every restriction is merely an option, as the ruling conservative party does not want to be viewed as endangering Japan’s economy.
Since Suga took office as prime minister in September of last year, the country’s pandemic management strategy has focused on “balancing the prevention of infection transmission with socio-economic activities.”
Japanese work procedures are best served by face-to-face interaction. “Organizations are built on strict protocols, personal interaction, constant training on the job, and group communication,” a professor of international management at Tokyo’s Sophia University tell Business Insider.
There aren’t many clearly defined job roles in Japanese companies. As a result, businesses see on-site training—typically provided by senior employees—as essential.
Every employee in an overseas company is given their responsibilities and can be evaluated on an individual basis.” According to Haghirian, “in Japan, work processes are more interdependent and interactive; each team member is accountable for every stage of the process.” “Individual achievements and processes can be tough to separate and let employees operate from a remote location because of this.”