national

Call centers expose fault line in Japan's pandemic fight

30 Comments
By Makiko Yamazaki and Yuki Nitta

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

30 Comments
Login to comment

My company was the same back then. A week after almost all offices and buildings have transitioned into working from home and the local government announced a local quarantine when our company announced that we work from home from now on. Some companies are just stubborn as a mule and really don't care much about their employees. Ideally, all firms that are able to work via the internet should telework.

18 ( +19 / -1 )

dozens of call center employees for telecom KDDI Corp still commute into their crowded office, 

So even workers whose job quite literally is telework aren’t allowed to telecommute?? This is insane, this should be the easiest job to transition to telecommuting.

But maybe they wouldn’t be able to do the company cheer in unison each morning if they weren’t in the office? Or attend meetings about when to schedule more meetings?

18 ( +21 / -3 )

Simplicity is quite complex for Japanese management..IT workers having to attend meetings in person? Telecommunications workers unable to work from home? My daughter works from home at the moment NO problem, except for having to go to the office to stamp papers once a week. She loves it and doesn't want to go back to the old way. That's what management fear I think. Their exposure to the reality of their usless efforts. Loss of control. Workers being happy, productive without constant supervision.

17 ( +18 / -1 )

Maybe telecommunications companies companies like NTT and KDDI are trying to say they do not the have the technology for telecommunicating. Now that is ironic.

It also seems the do not even have the technology convenience stores have to separate workers, plastic sheets.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

"Call operators need to be physically there to take calls from customers," a company spokesman said.

By contrast, the Japanese unit of Switzerland's Zurich Insurance Group switched 95% of its 500 operators to telecommuting by using virtual desktops 

Thus says it all. I know in the UK most call centres have switched to working from home. The thing is, most already had the technology, developed for business continuity purposes, as well as unavoidable circumstances when people had to work from home.

The KDDI spokesman shoes just how backwards their thinking is - it probably never occurred to him that it was possible to work remotely using a virtual desktop.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

There are a few things in play here

1) The old style companies are very reluctant to move away from having bums on seats in the office. The bosses want control, and they believe that only comes through actually being able to see someone.

2) Most Japanese companies, even telco's, just aren't set up for remote working. This is surprising because many telcos overseas have embraced it as a way to show off their products to prospective clients. Eg "Look, none of our staff have an assigned desk and they can do their job anywhere in the world. We can do the same for you and here are the services we can sell you to do it."

3) Japan has a low rate of home PC ownership, generally relying on phones for connectivity. This is generally because of the space requirements for a PC or Laptop in a Japanese home, and in the early 2000's, Japan got the jump on the rest of the world for providing mobile websites. Japan then largely skipped home PC ownership.

When the staff at my business wanted to work from home, we gave them access to a virtual desktop on their home PCs or Office 365. You can't do this if you don't have one.

4) If they are hiring in lowly paid temp contractors to do the work, they will be reluctant to provide them with laptops to work from home. Good luck getting them now anyway.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

many of them contractors with less job security than permanent employees.

And this is a huge problem in J-land. Most companies hire through haken gaisha to save costs and not having to follow labor laws. Then you have cases like the one in an article yesterday, where a lady got laid off from Mitsubishi but they don't wanna answer to anything related to her coz she "never work for them", but at Mitsubishi through a dispatch company.

"What's that? You're taking us to the labor department for being a black company? Simple. We're just not giving you another yearly contract."

Ever seen that happen?

12 ( +12 / -0 )

A ministry official said the request was meant to reduce human contact, not as an order to keep call centers open.

"We hope the carriers contrive ways to prevent infections," the official said.

My father used to say, "Hope in one hand and shat, (not his word), in the other and see which fills up first.

While the central government continues to navigate this crises by hoping their big business bosses and donors make moves to comply, the virus continues to spread. Although no one knows how far its spreading since universal testing is not being done. A vicious circle benefiting the do-nothing pols.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

By contrast, the Japanese unit of Switzerland's Zurich Insurance Group switched 95% of its 500 operators to telecommuting by using virtual desktops "

As usual - foreign companies CAN do with ease what Japanese companies are finding impossible.

Should one laugh or cry?  This is so pathetic.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Imagine that. A telecommunication company not being able or willing to allow their employees to telecommute.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

A KDDI spokeswoman said call centers were part of social infrastructure and need to remain open. She said it was considering requests from KDDI Evolva.

Social infrastructure? That is not a thing nor is it a reason to not self distance. They just want money over their employees

3 ( +5 / -2 )

black companies is the norm here. what s else???

the labor bureau and labor union are accomplice. just the tip of the iceberg.

even with amazing number of suicide. the labor problems are ignored...

7 ( +9 / -2 )

these companies are the worst, you can tell which companies care about their employees,

the call centers are the best place for cluster infections to happen, just look at the example of other countries call center, with cluster infections.

they need to shut down this ASAP or set up in a way that there are social distancing rules.

what's the difference between a pachinko parlor and KDDI. Pachinko parlor are honest at least, they only care of about money upfront, they don't hide behind those fancy ads like KDDI

7 ( +7 / -0 )

While there are younger people who don't have home internet or even a computer, internet connectivity rate is more than 95% of households and is now mostly broadband with 1GB speeds. Younger people are using their smart phones.

https://www.imrg.org/japan-internet/

Japan's domestic PC shipments surge 37% on telework. Shipments of desktop computers jumped 49.4 percent to 2.58 million in 2019 while those of laptop computers were up 33.6 percent to 7.15 million. Shipments by value stood at ¥912.6 billion ($8.30 billion), up 36.7 percent from the previous year.

Window users are also changing from Windows 7 to Windows 10.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Have the copies made in 3D and use VR to diagnose problems. Give a headset to each employee, send them home with their office pc and phone. Done.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

After reading this, I promised myself never to give them any attitude when talking with them.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Phone Support jobs are typically done from home in the US for large companies like Apple and Microsoft.

Apple even has Japanese-speaking reps working from home in the US supporting the Japan market.

The reasons Japanese companies give for still forcing employees, especially phone support reps, to come to the office are simply ludicrous.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"Call operators need to be physically there to take calls from customers," a company spokesman said.

No they literally don't.

It's quite simple nowadays for call systems to be set up to automatically transfer calls to another line. In most cases that isn't even necessary, as call operators will probably be working via VoIP systems, that they could easily access from home.

But again, this is Japan, and even telecommunications companies are seemingly decades behind the rest of the world.

Under Japan's post World War Two constitution, the government can't order companies to close

So how was the government able to do the following after the big earthquake. I see a lot of parallels here:

*"On March 15, after the sound what was believed to be explosion was heard at the reactor No.2 & No.4, the government instructed the residents living between 20km-30km radius from the NPP to stay inside house."*

*"On April 22, 2011, the government designated the 20km radius around the NPP as a restricted area and prohibited entry into the area excluding those engaged in emergency response."*

http://fukushimaontheglobe.com/the-earthquake-and-the-nuclear-accident/evacuation-orders-and-restricted-areas

So, Japan CAN enforce a 'lockdown', because it did so to residents in a specific area after the earthquake / meltdown.

Japan CAN in effect order companies to close - by restricting access and prohibiting entry to an area.

It was an emergency in 2011 - it has been declared a state of emergency now. In both cases, health and lives are at risk. There is no difference.

The LDP bashed the DPJ for their handling of the crisis in 2011, which is hugely ironic, as the LDP are handling this much much worse.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

what's the difference between a pachinko parlor and KDDI. Pachinko parlor are honest at least, they only care of about money upfront, they don't hide behind those fancy ads like KDDI

Brilliant analogy in these times!!

Japan often is just so PRIMITIVE in their ways & thinking, this is on FULL display during the pandemic sadly!

Myself I often refer to myself as a digital dinosaur as I have been here since the beginning of the 90s, & from 95 to 2017 I worked for myself so was always working from home, had a landline for work but simply left it on call forwarding to my mobile 24\7.

Japan used to make tech but now mostly make parts for others & businesses here are so slow to take up tech for work that they make ME look good & I am NOT, I am repeat a digital dinosaur LOL!!

I feel for all these highly exploited workers in Japan, Japan Inc & govt has a load to answer for!!!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Japan Inc & govt has a load to answer for!!!

They certainly do - but unfortunately nobody will ever ask the necessary questions.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Companies also fear a decline in worker productivity and customer service.

Jurassic mindset, J-companies at their best.

I wouldn't worry too much though, nowadays, flextime, being able to telework are key criteria to attract talents in companies, and with what happened the last 2 months, these criteria will become THE standard.

Those who don't follow will just rot away and retain the most useless workforce. Let natural selection do the job.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Technology is wasted in a culture that doesn’t know how to use it. So much money invested just to make the investors happy but without raising the working conditions of the people promoting it, doesn’t deserve having it. Waste! Pity.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"Another Evolva worker said operators were flooded with non-urgent inquiries because more people were now at home, adding: "Are these inquiries worth the infection risk for us?"

It is to your employers, who no doubt stay safe at home. You have to love that in Japan, a communications company cannot do telework.

talaraedokko: "Technology is wasted in a culture that doesn’t know how to use it."

Exactly, and here, they do not. They just got used to using fax machines!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Honestly, 'technology Japan' is just pathetic at utilizing technology available for things like telework.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

3) Japan has a low rate of home PC ownership, generally relying on phones for connectivity. This is generally because of the space requirements for a PC or Laptop in a Japanese home, and in the early 2000's,

This is true, although I disagree about the space requirements - a laptop doesn't require much room. However, there is a low rate of computer ownership in Japan.

One way that companies have addressed this is to provide staff with laptops instead of desktops to build in this flexibility.

But even if not every worker owns a laptop, a reasonable proportion of them could, and they could work from home.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Working at home has turned my dislike of PCs into something closer to hatred. Awful things.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Jimizo

Working at home has turned my dislike of PCs into something closer to hatred. Awful things.

An Apple a day keeps the employer away.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Working at home has turned my dislike of PCs into something closer to hatred. Awful things.

And have you seen those frightful horseless carriages? What sort of devil's conveyance are they?

Don’t mistake me for a Luddite. I studied science and find a lot of technology fascinating.

Maybe I’m in a bad mood because I had to listen to a nerd from the IT department today explaining some stupefyingly boring new process.

It’s a computer thing with me. I’ve tried to find them interesting but they are just so...dull.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Jimizo

Maybe I’m in a bad mood because I had to listen to a nerd from the IT department today explaining some stupefyingly boring new process.

It’s a computer thing with me. I’ve tried to find them interesting but they are just so...dull.

Do you find find food awful because refrigerators are dull? Or, music awful because audio equipment is dull?

How are you even reading JT articles and posting comments without a computer or its handheld version, the smartphone/tablet?

Computers are just tools. They are the same tools workers use in their corporate offices. They just get to use them in the comfort of their own homes when teleworking. There's the added bonus of no wasted time and discomfort commuting.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The epitome of Japanese business bassackwardness - gathering together to telework.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites