business

Japanese companies trail global peers in use of flexible work practices

31 Comments

A global survey by Regus, a leading provider of workplace solutions, has found that companies in Japan are among the least likely in the world to promote flexible work practices. The study defined “flexible work” as the ability of employees to work flexibly in terms of location or time.

The study was prompted by changing workplace norms around the world, as the traditional idea of working in a fixed location for a set number of hours is increasingly replaced by more dynamic and flexible ways of working. This is due to a number of factors, including advances in technology that enable employees to work on the road, at home or in different locations.

The study revealed that only 12% of Japanese companies allowed senior managers to work flexibly. This compares to 60% in France, 62% in China and a global average of 40%.

The survey also revealed that the number of Japanese companies that do not allow their employees to work flexibly was the highest in the world, with 50.6%. Globally, 81% of companies responded that they do allow some form of flexible working.

When asked if they viewed flexible working practices as more family friendly, only 57.1% of Japanese companies answered in the affirmative. Around the world, companies are using flexible working practices to encourage and facilitate working mothers to return to the workforce, less Japanese companies seem to see flexible work as offering benefits in terms of work-life balance. Globally, 70% of companies viewed flexible working as more being family friendly.

Jessy Takashi Kure, chairman, North Asia, for Regus comments: “It is important to note that this survey was conducted in February this year. Given all that has happened since then, if we were to ask the same questions today, I would expect a very different set of answers. We have seen growing interest in flexible work practices in the aftermath of the earthquake, with a particular focus on business continuity planning. Demand is increasing in our flexible working solutions — in particular for our business lounges, which support mobile workers on the move. Many companies are also exploring remote working outside of Tokyo as well as across the city, a trend we expect will continue as awareness of the benefits of flexible working increases. Around the world, companies are embracing flexible working to create a happier and more productive workplace, offering a better work-life balance to their employees while reducing their costs. I think Japanese businesses should consider the advantages of flexible working. Flexibility is the key to achieving greater resilience and adaptability to the current challenging environment.”

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31 Comments
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Don't worry Japan, keep doing what you're doing. When the West collapses and the China bubble pops, you'll be on top again! Gambatte, Nihonjin kamisama!

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Anyone surprised?..change and independence not a strong thing here.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Not surprised in the slightest.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Don't worry Japan, keep doing what you're doing. When the West collapses and the China bubble pops, you'll be on top again! Gambatte, Nihonjin kamisama!

this is surely a joke ..... except for a few large Japanese companies which are now global enterprises, japan has missed the boat on regaining its fleeting time at the top.... the inertia of the last 20 years plus the lack of structural reform in political, economic and business practice (combined with a shrinking population) means that japan (while still important) will never see those highs of the 80/90s again...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

In Japan, "flexible work" means, the worker is expected to stay longer than usual.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I hope that Japan stays the way it is. In the future, western companies are going to need somewhere that we can have slave-like labour. Capitalism needs people who do not think at work to do lower-end, menial jobs. Right now we are relying on 3rd World countries for this. The problem is that those countries will go through the usual cycle of understanding how the world and the economy works and they will become less satisfied with their conditions and demand more. Fortunately, Japanese workers have always been this way, and Japanese companies demand blind obedience. We will need this in the future! Keep it up, not your head, your tolerance for abuse at work!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

As if we didn't know this already. That is one of the reasons everything costs so much here in Japan. We are paying for the extra man hours (labor costs) to perform simple tasks because most companies operate totally inefficiently.

How long and how many staff does it take at a bank or post office or kuyakusho etc, etc to perform a simple job? We've all witnessed the inefficiencies at every level. Which is in my opinion why everything costs so much.

At yet at the same time (most) businesses/government institutions stubbornly refuse to change.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I think flexible working is kind of crap. Who wants to work at home? To me that's poor work-life balance. I want work to stay at the office and home to be my sanctuary away from work.

Flexible working is kind of a code for "always on duty", especially if you are a manager. You'll spend a lot of time at the office with a Japanese company but when you are off, you are off.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Tokyokawasaki..change is slowly happening..when j people stop paying for more, then change will happen. Thats what happened with JAL. Everyone is shifting to HIS which uses cheaper airlines. Even the rich from my neighborhood have started to use HIS 3 years ago! The consumer dictates everything. They are giving those stubborn institutions/managers power. Change is taking place but slowly.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I worked in a Japanese company with flexitime and it was very convenient. Of course, the managers were always pressuring us to spend every waking moment at work, but if you could resist them it was OK.

But I find Japanese companies in general to be totally inflexible when it comes to their, often absurd, rules, hiring practices etc. Yet at the same time they expect ultimate flexibility from their workers, particularly when it comes to the arbitrary posting of workers around the country every few years for no good reason.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I have seen many people who talk about flexible work arrangements which mean leaving the office at 6 or 7 pm and then working from home. I'd like to keep work at workplace and when I am off, I am completely off. It is not a nice feeling that your house is also your workplace. You have one already. I am not exactly clear on what exactly the article mean by flexible work to be honest. Is it just for working mothers as they give in the example?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

come on - change here is constant - cherry blossoms, company transfers, teacher transfers.......ooops what the hell was i thinking - change is not here really. it`s always been done this way.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Like everything this has its good and bad sides - depends on the case. My wife is flex which is very nice, because her company is far away. So she has to go few times a week and rest of the time work from home. Also she can have mid-day tasks not related to work and do more after the kids are asleep, etc. - that really helps. But in the same way as other noted there are certain moments "job is in the house" feeling is note nice. And I can't crank up the volume of my HiFi when there is urgent mail to be written :(

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I once had a student (mid level manager in HR at a very large corporation) to whom I explained the various flex time working conditions in the states, as well as hiring part time workers during busy times to increase productivity without increasing too much spend. I explained that many women work up until the last couple of months during pregnancy, and then take a couple months off, and then come back to work varying hours. I gave her an example of my sister who shared her job with another woman shortly after my sister had her kid. She worked a couple days a week, and they other woman worked a couple days a week.

The student's conclusion to all this?

"See? Japan is more efficient."

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I have flex time, but I'm working in a foreign company in Japan. My neighbours's (shufu) wifes are all in shock when they see me arriving back from home a 4pm. Starting working at 7am is very good, as you avoid all the crappy traffic and the heat, and the trains back al practically empty.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

gaijinfo,

haha, I am not surprised, totally clueless are mant of the droids on these isles!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Me i love being able to work at home, as well as my office but being self employed is different. But I love being able to get those exta couple hrs sleep most nights, get a bunch of emails fired off before 9am, work around my house/garden/plot at various times of the day, dress as I like, shorts & tank top right now!

If your disciplined enough flex is awesome, of course each of our situations will be somewhat unique. But no way in hell wud I ever do the salaryman gig, I wud seriously rather be homeless then be most salarymen.

As others have pointed out Japan needs to start working smarter instead of pissing away so much time on face to face meetings & screwing around in coffee shops before & afterwards, etc etc

Life could be so much better for many but most just cant see the possiblities sadly

Thing is Japan/Japanese need to realize they need to change otherwise quality of life/work will continue its downward spiral here

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This isnt news, anyone who has been in japan for longer than a week already knows this, and anyone who has worked for or with a japanese company for longer than a day knew this before lunch time.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I think flexible working is kind of crap. Who wants to work at home?

Smorkian -- no surprise in your response either. But, for the record, in case you missed it in the article, "flexible working" constitutes a lot more than just working at home. It also means flexible in time. And please don't tell me Japan wouldn't be better off if everybody was not commuting to/from work at the same time, or all going to lunch at 12:00. Also, you clearly didn't consider that working from home could allow women with kids, who get pushed out of corporate positions as soon as they have children, to still possibly work and contribute to Japan's economic well-being. And with an aging and shrinking population this could be very important.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Smorkian

I think flexible working is kind of crap. Who wants to work at home?

Man working form home is the way forward, I have a home office and it's great, benifits include (to name a few) no commute, can have lunch when i like, can go shopping when i like, don't need to get dressed up like a turkey to head into the office, if some big event is happening on the news I can simply turn on CNN on the TV.

Working from home has so many advantages and benifits it's almost criminal, but so so comfortable.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Working from home has so many advantages and benifits it's almost criminal, but so so comfortable.

Totally agree! I've done the commute thing and I've done the work-at-home thing; never, ever will I go back to the commute. As others have said, you get the time not spent standing on a train/bus to do other stuff; you can dress (or not) as you like; take tea/lunch/gardening/shopping/play-with-the-dog breaks when you like; be home when the kids come in from school.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Smorkian -- no surprise in your response either. But, for the record, in case you missed it in the article, "flexible working" constitutes a lot more than just working at home. It also means flexible in time. And please don't tell me Japan wouldn't be better off if everybody was not commuting to/from work at the same time, or all going to lunch at 12:00. Also, you clearly didn't consider

Ah, herefornow, posting in this thread just to attack me as usual. Don't you have any other hobbies other than picking apart my posts?

I understand perfectly what "flexible work practices" means. I work flex time right now, thank you. But I don't want to work from home, full stop. I've done it and I've hated it.

I also know of at least one Japanese woman working for a Japanese company who recently had a child and is working from home. It works for her. For ME - I don't like working from home. I've had the 'opportunity' to work from home via a VPN to my office when I used to work overseas - I was expected to work when at home. "Oh this is important, you should check on everything over the weekend since you have the connection to the office." Screw that. I'm interested in work-life balance, a big portion of which is not thinking about work when I am not actually at work.

Besides, not coming into the office reduces socialization. Right now I come into the office, and being a Friday I will likely go out with some coworkers for a few drinks after work finishes for a day. It's real hard to e-nomikai, ne?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I dont think that the results would be that different if you asked again now. It actually might be a higher percentage of companies disagreeing with flexibility. Since the quake, companies here have been struggling to catch up or just to regain balance. With the economy in the crapper and many places having to deal with power problems, this only adds to the problem of companies not understanding risk management here. Companies in japan rarely take risks, specially if they are domestic only. Then with many of these companies being spear headed by one elderly individual that is set in his ways, and unwilling to try new things unless they have been recommended by a close friend or someone they respect, its easy to understand why things like this arent booming. In japan, this is my observation, customers are terrible selfish people, customer service is triple A, Employees work very hard and most times are very dedicated to their company, Employees are treated like crap and are derelict objects in the eyes of the company and they take out their frustration by being terrible customers, and Employers are really old guys with too much money and too much time on their hands, that enjoy having their egos massaged as they run their dictatorship where they trust no one and allows no one to do the job they are assigned. Companies need to understand, you have to respect the employee, people need to respect people.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The Japanese pretends to work by the managed thing. And, it is pretended to work by the managed thing. It is the majority though it is deplorable.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

If Japanese companies introduced flexible schedules, it would cause one HUGE problem:

How would they have meetings?

It was the unbelievable amount of production time wasted and deathly boredom induced by meetings in Japanese companies that prompted me to start my own company years ago.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Patrick Smash

The Japanese are all so dammed inefficient and generally useless

You speak the truth here Patrick!

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@Patrick

The Japanese are all so damned inefficient and generally useless....

Sure and they are, Paddy. And the Irish are all so damned lazy and generally slow-witted, right?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

This story being here is preaching to the choir.

What we need is for this story to get out to the rest of the world and especially to Japanophiles / anime freaks who think it would be so cool to work in Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Labor in Japan is more or less slave labor. Live to work! That is most common scenario I encounter here. Most people I know spend far more time at the office than with family, kids or community. And yet Japan wonder's why japan has rising divorce, suicide and random violence rates.

Jeffrey, seriously? Do your homework. If China and the US go, who do you think Japan will buy critical goods from? Who will they sell exports to? If the big two go, Japan will follow them down the drain.

Time for a reality check.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japanese companies trail global peers in use of flexible work practices

Ya think?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Now you're making me feel bad, Patrick.

I didn't really mean to suggest that the Irish are in any way inferior to anyone else. I was just pointing out how much of a sweeping generalisation you were making. And anyway you're a Brit, right?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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