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Gifu company pays workers to refrain from using smartphones

16 Comments

In the parlance of Japanese workers, a "teate" is a stipend or allowance for housing, transportation and so on, added to the base monthly wage, usually without any withholdings.

From two years ago, reports Nikkan Gendai (April 28), employees of the Iwata Seisakusho, a medium-sized manufacturer of components located in Seki City, Gifu Prefecture, have been eligible to receive 5,000 yen per month for not owning a smartphone.

It seems that the firm's 67-year-old president, Shuzo Iwata, feels that the use of such devices has caused his workers to engage in less communication with each other. After hearing the president of Shinshu University urge people to give up their smartphones, Iwata initiated the 5,000 yen per month offer to his workers.

Has it had any impact?

"About seven or eight years ago, I communicated with my workers about the disadvantages inherent in digital devices," Iwata tells the newspaper. "What's more, I bought about 20 copies of a book, 'The Collapse of the Japanese' by Kunio Yanagida -- which warned about addiction to cell phones and the internet -- and encouraged my workers to read them.

"Then about two years ago this coming July, I initiated the new system," Iwata continued. "Up to that point, some 20 workers had applied for the allowance. But only three of them had reverted to the use of the old type of "gara-kei" (cell phones that fold shut). Now we're up to 44 people, which means about half of the workers still use smartphones; but I'm convinced among the ones who do, they've reduced the time they spend using their phones."

"In the past, some workers would walk from the parking lot to the factory buildings with their faces turned down while gazing at their phones, but you don't see them doing that any more," Iwata noted with a grin.

"During their breaks, before you'd see two people seated on a bench, ignoring each other while they poked at their phones. Likewise during lunch in the dining room. That struck me as abnormal. One of the good things about a small company is that the workers can all communicate with one another, and looking at how they were not doing that and instead using their phones struck me as a bad situation.

"And now? We've got more people engaging in conversations. But as the owner of a business, what makes me happiest of all is that we've been picked up by the local media and NHK, and more of our workers have been interviewed. One was heard to comment, 'Now that we've become so famous, we've got to become a really good company -- or else.' I won't be forgetting that."

Certainly there are employees who use their personal computers and GPS car navigation systems, but in Iwata's view, "the more convenient a digital device, the more caution a person needs to take." The employee who becomes addicted to a smartphone appears to talk less to others, read fewer books, and not read the newspaper. Such a worker, it's feared, will lose the functions of his "sensor" by which importance is placed on customers' feelings. And Iwata is convinced that by weaning his staff away from digital gadgets, he helps to nurture the ability to treat customers right.

"If we can keep this going for 10 years, I'm convinced we'll absolutely widen the gap over our competitors," he says. "So I don't believe for a moment that the 5,000-yen allowance will be wasted."

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

16 Comments
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Bravo! While I personally am of the opinion that smart-phones do have a time and place and for some very necessary for their livelihood they average person maybe not. Maybe these folks have smart-phones outside of the business but who cares, if they communicate better between themselves then I love the approach!

10 ( +12 / -2 )

Smartphones do add value. Candy Crush doesn't.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

carry it around and look at it every 5 minutes is also helpful.

Watching young Japanese, I'd say 5 seconds is closer to the reality. Smartphones are insidiously addictive. They're no better than a cheap form of heroin.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

This is a great idea. People use their smart-phones far more than they should and having a space where we can switch them off and not use them is hugely beneficial.

They have their uses and they have their problems. Middle ground is best of course. Having one is very helpful and being able to not carry it around and look at it every 5 minutes is also helpful.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

When questioning the value of new technologies, anyone who asks what the technology is rather than how it is used is pretty much demonstrating that they don't know enough about the topic to play a part in the discussion.

Hey, Iwata-shacho is astute enough to know that if you dangle 5,000 yen (or 60,000 yen a year) in front of his workers' noses, a fairly large percent of them will decide that money outweighs all those benefits of new technology. (At least while they're on the job.) I'd call it a win-win situation.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I gave up my smart phone completely 19 months ago. Has saved me ¥5000 time 19. Pretty nice. I never got a flip phone, and life is good. No one is ever late to meet me. I like my life. I read real books now, and that is wonderful.

Get rid of your phone, especially if you have a computer at home.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

*feels that the use of such devices has caused his workers to engage in less communication with each other.***** yeah at the same time big corporations like Toyota Nissan Mazda etc, rotate there workers between branches every 3 yrs or so, rarely returning to the same workplace. how is that meant to form workplace bonds/friendships when you have completely new workmates every few yrs

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Excuse me but what is being missed is that people are paid to work on the job and not play with their phones. It is all fun time with Candy Crush until someone gets injured for not paying attention to their factory job.

As far as temporary employees - well there is that free will thing, they took the job and still have the obligation to work and not fiddle with their phone. In my business, you get one warning for playing instead of working and then bye bye. I do not pay people to socialize on their phones when they have jobs to do. They owe my clients and my business their time at work and not their phone.

Breaks and lunch I could care less, but you had better be back to work when you should be if not then don;t let the door hit your bum on the way out.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

"Up to that point, some 20 workers had applied for the allowance. But only three of them had reverted to the use of the old type of “gara-kei”

Heck, if I worked for that company I'd be happy to receive the 5,000 yen a month for keeping my good ol' gara-kei.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

44x5000 = 220,000x52 = 11,440,000 ? just how much and how long has this Company been under paying their workers. He can afford such amount which will not improve productivity. It will only get each other communicating which can lead to disagreements. These disagreement will play apart in harming the productivity on the work floor. Now if he can afford to pay extra for no evidence of a increase in productivity, it will get the worker thinking and taking between themselves that they must be get under pay for work. THis will lead to dissatisfaction among the work force but may be better Japanese society.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

JapanGal, only problem with not having a mobile phone of any kind is it's kinda hard to find a public phone these days if you have to make a call outside home...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sounds like a case of an older company President who A) hasn't been able to keep up with the advancement of technology, B) is threatened by that fact, C) has latched onto some work of hysterical doom-crying fiction to justify his fears, and D) uses his position of power over his economically-threatened employees to pressure them into being just as backward as he is.

But hey, he got on the news for being so out of touch with the times, so that's both free advertising and a chance to put extra pressure on his employees. Win/win! I mean as long as we forget about barriers to employees having contact with modern life outside of the factory...

When questioning the value of new technologies, anyone who asks what the technology is rather than how it is used is pretty much demonstrating that they don't know enough about the topic to play a part in the discussion.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Hey, Iwata-shacho is astute enough to know that if you dangle 5,000 yen (or 60,000 yen a year) in front of his workers' noses, a fairly large percent of them will decide that money outweighs all those benefits of new technology. (At least while they're on the job.) I'd call it a win-win situation.

No kidding. After two decades of economic stagnation, rising energy costs, the falling yen raising the price of many foods, and salaries that have not kept up with inflation let alone with the consumption tax increase, this guy has discovered he can manipulate his employees' personal lives by dangling money in front of them. This is at a factory- a big bulk of his employees are probably temporary workers who don't even have national health insurance or pensions.

The question isn't can he screw around with his employees' personal lives by dangling money in front of them, the question is should he. Given that his entire justification for manipulating them is a work of disaster fiction with no basis in scientific research, I'm going to go with no. Ironically, he could probably with much greater effect use that same 5000 yen bonus proactively to reward employees who make efforts to enhance communication and camaraderie at work. Only that would require him to get off his ass and actually directly observe his employees to see what concrete steps they take to facilitate communication and camaraderie. He'd have to think and make judgments and develop a rubric for evaluation, and that takes work. Also, that wouldn't enable him to pretend people agreed with his silly backwards opinion on smart phones because he pays them to go along with him.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

kyushubill: "Excuse me but what is being missed is that people are paid to work on the job and not play with their phones. It is all fun time with Candy Crush until someone gets injured for not paying attention to their factory job."

It says absolutely nothing about people working on the job -- only using phones while going to and from, and on breaks. Using your phones for ANYTHING PERSONAL, be it candy crush, email, or checking calendars, without permission, is just as wrong as if they were watching TV or something else that is not 'work'. But here, from the article:

"“In the past, some workers would walk from the parking lot to the factory buildings with their faces turned down while gazing at their phones, but you don’t see them doing that any more... During their breaks, before you’d see two people seated on a bench, ignoring each other while they poked at their phones. Likewise during lunch in the dining room. That struck me as abnormal."

So, people haven't missed the point at all. I agree that phones shouldn't be used, or books or newspapers read, during work if it is unrelated, but THAT is not the point, my friend.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

katsu78.

Absolutely spot on.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

News for those who agree with this guy; people do just as much texting and looking down at the cell phone while walking when it's NOT a smartphone but a gara-kei. Why not ban all gara-kei to get the bonus? It seems pretty clear to me that the guy just doesn't like the fact that people are using something and engaging in behaviour he doesn't like, and that since it's something he doesn't use himself he blames it on the device.

I'm also curious what kind of components the company manufacturers, and would not be surprised if they were components for moving buttons on cell phones and other devices -- ie. gara-kei.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

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