Japanese workers discover advantages of teleworking


In 20 years, will “going to work” be a thing of the past? In 100, will the phrase even be comprehensible?

Hidetsugu Kamei, a 42-year-old Fujitsu executive, is a harbinger of the day when work and home will have merged. He “teleworks.” Computers, webcams, headphones and microphones enable him to attend meetings, instruct subordinates and handle office routine without leaving the house. The technology is not new, but the concept is, at least in Japan, which, says Shukan Gendai (Nov 8), lags far behind the pacesetting U.S. in this regard.

The push came last year from then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who set a goal of doubling the teleworking population and, by 2010, having it total 20% of the nation’s workforce. Major corporations seem to like the idea. Besides Fujitsu, IBM Japan, NEC, Panasonic and NTT, among others, have all adopted some variation of it.

The hour-long commute to work, once the bane of Kamei’s existence, no longer cuts into his family life. “I get up at the same time I always did,” he tells Shukan Gendai, “but now after breakfast, I take the kids to the park and we play for a while. When work’s done for the day, the kids and I go shopping, or we rent a car and go for a drive. That’s the great thing about teleworking for me: time with my family.”

It seems the answer to a lot of prayers. If it spreads, it will thin rush hour traffic, reduce stress, allow time not only with children but with the rapidly rising number of aged parents. For employers, it represents savings in overhead and benefits from government tax breaks designed to promote the concept.

NEC, which introduced a teleworking system on a trial basis in July 2006, lately conducted a survey of 200 employees who have taken advantage of it. They use it sparingly -- only twice a month on average, “when the work I’m doing requires special concentration,” say 62%, or “for child-rearing or to care for elderly relatives,” say 15%.

This suggests a less than frantic flight from the office. Old habits die hard. “Face-to-face communication is ingrained in Japan’s corporate culture,” explains an NEC official. “Important arrangements don’t seem to gel without it” -- and faces on a computer screen are not, or do not yet seem, quite the real thing.

Panasonic executive Satoshi Yamamoto, 53, lives in Tochigi Prefecture, just under two hours by shinkansen from his Tokyo office. He teleworks twice a week, having converted a corner of the bedroom into a study where his family knows better than to disturb him. He gets up earlier on his teleworking days -- 4 a.m. instead of 5:15, and 6:40, when he’d normally be boarding his train, finds him instead riding his Road Racer bicycle along a river.

“Two or three hours of slow cycling burns fat and prevents metabolic syndrome,” he tells Shukan Gendai. “I ride roughly 70 km, come home, take a shower, have a leisurely breakfast. I feel better for it, and work goes more smoothly.”

When he first started teleworking last year, his wife said to him, “Don’t go out into the garden, the neighbors will think you’ve been laid off.” By now they, and a lot of other people, have gotten used to the idea.

© Japan Today

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I'll believe it when I see it. 99% of Japanese bosses couldn't live without their workers chained to their office desk.

[by the way - impressed with that executive riding his bike 'along a river'! At least it avoids the traffic ...]

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I've been "teleworking" from home for a number of years now and it does have its ups and downs but I save a lot of money on gas and most importantly I have more time to be with my family. I hope this becomes more common in the future, I think it's a fantastic idea as I'm all for practicality.

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I know a newspaper editor who teleworks. He has a camera set up so that people can actually see that he's working.

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“I ride roughly 70 km, come home, take a shower, have a leisurely breakfast. I feel better for it, and work goes more smoothly.”

I wonder how many employers will see this and think, less time at work and work goes more smoothly. Maybe we should try it.

Unfortunately for many workers, they need to be at their machine (lathe, welder) in order to work. This is strictly for the desk-bound paper pushers.

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good for this guy!! Way to go! I have been working from home & office here now for years, it is definitely the way to go. But not many companies will be too big on this me thinks, this telecommuting is really only utilized by those who are self employed who can be their own boss & responsible enough to balance things.

I fully encourage you all to try to pull it off if you can definitely better than having to commute each day I cud never go back to that as it really kills you that needless grind AND then you have to do your job, aint worth it.

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It's definitely a good idea, the only problem is the size of houses, you can't have your GF or wife watching TV in the same room as you need to focus on what is going. But with that said without the constant interruptions at a standard Japanese office you can get alot done.

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“Don’t go out into the garden, the neighbors will think you’ve been laid off.”

just this one sentence makes reading the whole article worthwhile don't you think

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my neighbours see me in my garden all time, along with walking the dog out by the rice fields, its great! Cdunt care less what they think I may or may not be up to, lifes to short for that nonsense, but j-folks can be consumed by it, its one of the perks of being non-native

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I am pretty sure the companies have discovered the advantages of teleworking... saves a heap of money in transportation fees alone...

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hereandthere -

There's only a saving in transportation fees if the teleworker can spend most of his time at home. If he gets to stay at home only once or twice a week, the cost may be not much different from a season ticket that allows him to travel every day.

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I enjoy working at home when I can, but I also like going into the office to chat and meet with others, so a bit of both seems to be the best. Not a big fan of videoconferencing, everyone on the screen looks jumpy.

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“Don’t go out into the garden, the neighbors will think you’ve been laid off.” This sums up Japanese mentality in a nutshell.

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This will never take off in japan, as bosses like to be able to see their slaves in action right in front of their eyes.

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