There’s nothing like a global pandemic to really disrupt the way business is done around the world and especially in Japan, which still clings to antiquated practices like personal seals and faxing. With the fear of COVID-19 came a wave of teleworking through Japanese companies in which hundreds of thousands of would-be commuters traded their train-passes for Zoom accounts.
While not always the smoothest transition, the work-from-home concept seemed to go pretty well on the whole with increased productivity and less waste being reported. In fact, in the case of potato chip maker Calbee, it went so well that they’ve decided to keep it going indefinitely.
On 25 June, Calbee announced that from July 1, it will continue with the same work-from-home system that has been in place since March. The system thus far has shown a positive effect from reducing commuting time and increasing efficiency, so they will carry on with it as long as it never proves detrimental to overall work performance.
The plan is aimed at about 800 of its employees who work at headquarters and sales offices, accounting for 20% of its total workforce. By utilizing teleconferencing and electronic signature systems, they are aiming to reduce office attendance rates to about 30 percent.
Moreover, Calbee has also announced that they will end the practice of tanshin funin. This is a common corporate custom in which Japanese companies periodically transfer employees who have families to other cities, which traditionally resulted in fathers moving far away from the rest of their families for years at a time.
Although ending this unusual practice probably doesn’t need explanation, Calbee said the reason was to enhance the family lives of employees and thus improve the efficiency of their work.
The generally chip-loving nation of Japan didn’t really need another reason to praise Calbee, but nevertheless were more than happy about the company’s progressive moves towards its employees’ well-being.
“Really?! Is Calbee hiring by any chance?”
“A friend’s daughter works at Calbee and I heard it was always good to its workers.”
“Great job Calbee!”
“I’m in the middle of a tanshin funin now, and am very jealous of Calbee workers. I can’t see my family and we have to pay double for living expenses. There is nothing good about this antiquated system.”
“I’m glad they are ending tanshin funin, but I hope that goes for all their workers in the production lines too.”
“I suddenly feel the urge to buy some chips.”
“It’s sad that it took the coronavirus to get Japanese companies into the modern age of the Internet.”
“Apartment companies aren’t going to be happy if this catches on.”
Of course there were also come concerns, such as this possibly being a trick to squeeze longer working hours out of employees or to cut them out of the decision-making process. Still, it’s certainly a step in the right direction, and while some business traditions do have their charm, others, such as arbitrarily breaking up families, have long overstayed their welcome.
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