Japan knows how to work. If only it could learn the art of resting from work.
“Life would be 10 times happier,” says Spa! (Feb 6). And people would work better, too.
Paid vacations are an entitlement throughout the developed world. Japan must be one of very few countries where workers feel guilty about taking time off, or even about leaving the office on time. Spa! surveys 300 salaried workers in their 30s and 40s. Question 1: “Do you get enough rest?” No, say 60.67%. Question 2: “Do you enjoy your days off?” No, say 71.67%. Question 3: “Do you feel guilty about taking your paid vacation?” Yes, say 57%.
Even the government, standard-bearer of the work ethic, bends over backwards to persuade employers to give their employees a break, and employees to take one. It would lubricate the economy. People at leisure spend more money than people at work – on shopping, travel, drinking, dining. “Premium Friday” was a government-backed drive to give leisure a boost – employers would release their employees early on the last Friday in the month. It fizzled.
“Guilty about taking paid vacation” – why? Two reasons, basically, says Spa! – one moral; the other, perhaps, cultural. The moral reason is that if you’re off, someone else must take up the slack, and the thought of that, if you’re conscientious and considerate, may well be enough to spoil a holiday. The cultural one has to do with the way employees are evaluated. Bosses like commitment, it seems, even more than they like results. Show you’re committed to the company, and you rise in it. Show you’re committed to leisure, and, however brisk, efficient and productive you may be, you are liable to be found wanting.
So it’s up to the individual, it seems, to bust the system, and those who dare reap the rewards of their daring. Hirofumi Tomatsu, 28, works for an ad agency. He goes abroad every weekend. In four years he’s seen a vast stretch of the world. From Friday night to Monday morning is 64 hours. Where can you go, what can you do, in 64 hours? With energy, planning and skill, far and a lot.
It all started, he says, when four years ago he lucked onto a ticket for an NBA playoff game. Here was a childhood dream come true. The only trouble was, the arena was in the United States. Well, he’d go to the United States, then. He asked his boss for time off. Nothing doing, said the boss. Anything but an NBA playoff game, Tomatsu would have yielded. He insisted, however, until finally the boss threw up his hands and said “Well, go if you want to so much!”
Travel overseas became a passion. He’s sharper at work, making sure he gets everything done on time, and done well, so as not to leave behind loose ends when he takes off. His conversation sparkles. Clients like him. What his clients like, his boss likes. He’s now fully supportive. “Well, how was Africa?” he’ll ask amiably on Monday morning.
For Akio Fujieda, leisure means bar-hopping. He’s a 55-year-old insurance consultant you’d think, Spa! says, would be too busy for anything but work-related drinking, but work-related drinking is work, not leisure. He goes to drink and sample the atmosphere, not make or cement business connections – although if, in the course of conversation, something should click, he doesn’t turn his back on it. Once in an out-of-the-way watering hole he happened to meet a publisher, who, hearing of Fujieda’s tales of bars here, bars there, thought it might make a book. As in fact it has.
But doesn’t this crimp his time at the office? Yes, but not the quality of his work, he says. “I don’t say, ‘I’m going drinking after I’ve finished work,’” he tells Spa!. “I say, ‘I’m going drinking at such-and-such a time,’ and make sure I’ve got my work done by then.”
Happiness is so easy, if only you know how to reach out and grasp it.© Japan Today