Telework. A year ago it was “on the horizon,” along with artificial intelligence, electric vehicles, the Internet of Things and so much else – the technology here, the vanguard growing, but still, spoken of more in the future than in the present tense.
Everybody knows what’s happened since. The coronavirus pandemic drove us indoors, online. Evolution became revolution. Telework is growing, spreading, clearly here to stay. “Work” will never be the same.
Spa! (March 23-30) introduces “leisure teleworkers” – by which it means not workers in the leisure industry but workers spending the bulk of their working day gaming, day-trading, movie-watching, husband- or wife-hunting and so on, work being done in fits and starts and reduced, in some cases, to two or three hours a day; more typically, perhaps, to five or six.
Is Japan’s work ethic eroding? Some say so; others maintain the 8-, 10- or 12-hour working day of old consisted mostly of time wasted – proof being, they say, that the same jobs are getting done now, faster and more efficiently, leaving room for something the old ways neglected or spurned: namely, private life.
“Now that there’s time, I make a point of cooking lunch every day,” says 28-year-old man in IT sales. “It’s great – my skills are improving!”
“Thanks to the coronavirus,” says a 29-year-old woman in finance, “I spend three to four hours of the working day watching Netflix” – specifically the enormously popular South Korean romantic melodrama “Ai no Fujichaku” (Crash-Landing on You).
“In the sauna,” replies a 24-year-old man in finance to the question of where he spends his telework leisure. Only after working up a healthy and invigorating sweat does he emerge to check his smartphone. Is there anything requiring his attention? If so, he gives it ungrudgingly; if not, back into the sauna, the cares of the workaday world forgotten.
“I’d always left housework up to my wife,” a 44-year-old salesman tells Spa! The new opportunities offered by telework goaded him into “taking up the challenge. My wife and I get along much better now.”
A 30-year-old female office worker is pleased to have more time than ever before to spend on online “matching” – spouse-hunting. “At the office I can’t reply to messages," she says. "Now I can respond immediately. It makes me feel that much closer to the person. We can talk on the phone. We say, ‘Let’s just talk until one of us gets a summons from the office.’ We can talk for half an hour at a time.”
A 51-year-old electrical engineer seems to deliver the older generation’s judgment on this when he says, “I use my free time to read books useful to my specialty.” But some young people too are not wholly at ease in the newly relaxed atmosphere. A 23-year-old programmer says, “Telework is comfortable enough, I can spend most of the day on gaming, but on the other hand I’m learning almost nothing about my job.”
He’d been with his company barely a month when the virus struck. He’d barely started learning the ropes. He’s frustrated doing the same elementary tasks over and over, with no chance to proceed upward from there. “I hardly know what it is yet to be a full-fledged adult member of society,” he complains.© Japan Today