Teleworking in Japan

By Staff Writer
September 07, 2022
When COVID first spread in Japan in March 2020 and the state of emergency was announced, the telework implementation rate was 31.5%, and among companies with more than 1001 employees, the rate was as high as 50%. However, according to an article published on July 25 by the Sankei Shimbun, the telework implementation rate in July 2022 was 16.2%, indicating a drop in Japan’s teleworking rate to about half of that at the beginning of COVID.
A person participating in an online meeting
Why is teleworking so unpopular in Japan? Teleworking was first officially announced in 2005 as “a flexible form of work that improves work efficiency while harmonizing the work-life balance of workers” and was expected to “contribute to solving social problems such as the declining birthrate, aging population, global environment, and crisis management during disasters” by the Telework Promotion Forum, launched in collaboration with the government. Despite the long recognition of the benefits of working from home, Japan has been quite slow in establishing this mode of work as a formidable option of working.
A woman working at home while her husband takes care of a child
One reason for this, according to work style researcher Keitaro Kawakami, is that much of the telework implemented in the wake of COVID was meant more as an emergency measure, rather than establishing a formidable alternative mode of work.
Most companies have implemented telework without changing the core business structure of how their work is operated. In such an environment, productivity will decline and the business itself will not be able to operate.
The failure of the business community to take a proactive stance, such as setting new voluntary targets, has meant that the introduction of telework has remained a measure to control the flow of people, limited to the COVID pandemic, and has failed to develop into a permanent measure in line with the original objective as stated in the charter of the Telework Promotion Forum.
As various work style reforms are being implemented, including long working hours being reduced, paid leave being promoted, and male employees being encouraged to take childcare leave, companies are being called more to accommodate to the convenience of workers. Now, the development of a work-life balance environment is a measure that all companies must address.
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