Tokyo: Posted far away from home for work at the Japanese conglomerate Hitachi, Tsutomu Kojima’s father was “really lonely” until he first started working in a remote location during a pandemic. COVID-19 has overturned office routines around the world, but in Japan, where penalties and reliance on paper files, ink stamps and fax machines have long been the norm, shake-ups were urgently needed. Some people say that. According to Nomura Research Institute, a Tokyo-based consultancy, only 9% of Japan’s workforce had teleworked before the pandemic, compared to 32% in the United States and 22% in Germany.

However, a quiet revolution in the country’s rigorous business culture is underway, with staff expected to work on digitalizing operations, once being late, going out drinking with their bosses, and accepting distant transfers. Offers more flexibility. Kojima lived alone for an hour and a half on the Shinkansen from his family in Nagoya at an accommodation facility provided by Hitachi near Tokyo.

At the time, he returned home only twice a month, but now 44, he works exclusively from home, is productive, and is close to his teenage daughter. “I have more time to help with their research. My youngest child told me that he wanted things to stay the same,” he told AFP. Mr. Kojima said in Tokyo that he was “really lonely in the past,” but realized that “the true balance is not to give up on his family.”

Old habit

According to Japan Productivity Center, nearly one-third of Japan’s work goes remote during the first COVID wave in the spring of 2020, even though the government has never imposed a strict stay-at-home order. I was. That percentage has since dropped to 20%, but it’s still much higher than it was before the pandemic, according to a quarterly survey by nonprofits.

To facilitate telework, the government and some businesses have endeavored to phase out personalized ink stamps used to certify documents and fax machines everywhere. In Japan, from the 1970s to the 1980s, when the Japanese economy was booming, it was common practice that “business must be done directly on paper.”

“One of the things COVID has done is to remove these barriers. The work doesn’t have to be done in the office and men can work from home,” he told AFP. He added that companies are aware that new ways of working can be more efficient. “Before COVID, it was very important to show that employees are working hard, not actually producing results.”

‘New Balance’

Reflecting trends elsewhere, people are also fleeing from big cities. According to Teikoku Databank, a record number of headquarters moved from Tokyo last year, but the population of the capital has declined for the first time in 26 years. Among those who raised the stick are Kazuki and Shizuka Kimura, who left their cramped Tokyo apartment and headed for a custom-built house near the sea. The couple are currently working in communication and marketing away from Fujisawa, southwest of the capital, and are having a hard time working at their home in Tokyo.

“It was really COVID that made this decision,” said Kazuki Kimura, who was looking for a place to hold meetings elsewhere, such as at his parents’ house, a cafe, a remote workbox at a train station, or even karaoke. Kimura said. booth. “Sometimes I heard a song from the booth next door,” recalls a 33-year-old woman who has lost her concentration and is learning to surf. Shizuka Kimura, 29, believes that “more and more people are prioritizing happiness over work,” but she wonders how quickly things change on a broader scale.

This is a concern shared by Recruit Works Institute expert Hiromi Murata, who may be slower to adapt to new work styles than large companies such as Hitachi, Panasonic, and telecommunications giant NTT. It states that there is. Murata states that remote work can also cause problems in training new employees because it is “learning at work.” β€œIn the past, meeting in the office was very important … each company needs to find a new balance in its own way and time.” – AFP

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