Japan Today

Suicide of overworked Dentsu employee prompts company to order lights out at 10 p.m.


Following outcry over the suicide of an overworked 24-year-old female employee last Dec 25, major Japanese advertising agency Dentsu's Tokyo head office has begun ordering office lights out at 10 p.m. in an effort to limit excessive overtime.

At exactly 10 p.m. on Monday, all lights at the head office were switched off at once, Sankei Shimbun reported. Dentsu has been under intense scrutiny since employee Matsuri Takahashi jumped to her death from her fourth-floor room in the company dorm. Last month, Tokyo’s Labor Standards Inspection Bureau ruled the death a case of “karoshi” (death from overwork) – effectively implicating Dentsu. Other similar cases of excessive overtime have been revealed one after another.

As part of Dentsu’s labor management reform, the Tokyo head office and other affiliated buildings will switch off lights from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. to encourage their employees to head home.

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So the lights will be off from 10 PM to 5 AM, effectively meaning 7 hours. Even IF the employees actually leave then and don't work in the dark, someone could still effectively do 17 hours a day, or 9 hours a day of "overtime" for Dentsu and be 'okay.'

Nine potential hours a day of overtime, even if they 'only' work a 5 day work week, is 45 hours a week, or 180 hours of overtime a month.

Yeah Dentsu, really showin' them, aren't you?

17 ( +18 / -1 )

Lights out at 6pm is very reasonable

12 ( +13 / -1 )

I get off work at 2pm, everyday. That's like an entire extra shift for me, lol. If they're sincere about this, perhaps lights out at 7pm, unless specially authorized for rush projects.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

hahaha 10 PM , one hour for way back , one hour for shower , 20minutes for toilet minutes . 20 to talk with family . Sleep at 1 PM , wake up at 6: 30 > Again commute to work . When they get time to live ?

10 ( +11 / -2 )

10 pm is still scandalous late. As one user said, 6/7 PM everyone should be able to go home to their family and free time. Its time Japan understand this.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Actually, this tactic is largely irrelevant. There may be staff with legitimate business early in the morning or late in the evening - it's the expectation that they do both as a matter of course which is unreasonable.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

My company also does this "automatically turn all the lights off at 10 PM" thing.

It is 100% symbolic; the people who are still at work don't suddenly get up and go home.

All that happens is that someone whose shift naturally ends later than 10 PM will get up and turn them back on, while everyone waits 60 seconds for the lights to be operable again. Sometimes the overtime workers aren't aware of the enforced delay in turning them back on and will get angry at the person who stands in front of the switch patiently waiting for the delay to end.

It's the perfect example of making the outside world look like you're doing something while it's in fact business as usual.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

10pm until 5am?! Absolute muppets. No other word for them.

If I were a potential client why would I want to pass my (expensive) business their way when they cannot manage their working time.

Shut them down.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

How much you want to bet they still have to work with the lights off given they have computers? In any case, 10 pm and opening at 5 is still very much overtime, and now they're going to pressure employees even more. And guess what, lights will still be on a Saturdays and a Sundays as well as holidays.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

10pm is stupid, it's rubbish. It's a joke.

When are Japanese companies going to wake up to the fact that a bum on a seat deep into the night has no correlation to productivity whatsoever? None. Zip. Donuts.

Why make your employees participate in this ridiculous charade where they all sit around watching each other be present at the office whilst they push papers from one side of the desk to the other?

Let them go home, see their families, have some chill time and come in fired up the following morning.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

10pm? How about 7pm? If a company's employees have to work 12-16 hours a day, every day to finish their work, your company is severely understaffed (or undertrained) and you are a slave driving butt-hole that should be jailed under the new worker's law protecting people from slave drivers such as you! People work for a living, not live for working! "This is not my life! It's just my day job. A way to pay the rent!"

On the other side of the coin, I think a lot of this problem comes from people starting work at 10am or later. I come from Australia and, by 10 am, the day is half over! If offices were to offer a 'normal' start finish time, like 8-5 or 9-6 people would not need to be in the office until 10pm. There is also the issue of, driftwood employees. People that are full-time employees an do bugger all, but have senior positions within the company, leave on time every day and tell the underlings they must stay until they finish work that should have been done by their lazy and manipulative senior. This 'power harassment' thing just does not cut it! It's more about senior staff that 'delegate/ignore' their own duties to workers further down the 'sempai' line and make them work ridiculous hours. This chick was only 24 years old and doing the work of at least 3 people. The managers and owner of this company should be jailed for such a blatant abuse of worker's rights. However, it seems that, in Japan, worker's rights are, you have the right to do as you are told or peace off! It's absolutely disgusting that these employers can get away with this crap in 2016.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

What? We can only work 14 hours a day? What are we supposed to do with all that free time?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

If you can't do a day's work in 14 hours, you are too inefficient to keep your job.

Anyone who needs more than ten hours in a company seat to do a routine task had better be pulling in some serious profit for the company. But no. TIJ.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

They are turning off the lights to "encourage people to go home". Isn't that blaming the victims?

Employ more staff to spread the workload or teach existing staff to be more productive with their time.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Ten p.m. Is too late. Thanks for not changing a thing, black company, Z

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This "lights out" policy is gimmick as anyone who's worked in a large company can tell you. It is literally as simple as turning them back on again. At some of the NEC offices, lights out is 18:00:00, someone turns them on again at 18:00:01 allowing everyone to stay back for some heavy overtime

2 ( +4 / -2 )

10pm ? only 4-5 hours after they stop getting paid. Some that travel still won't get home till 11pm-12pm, kids alseep, wife waiting and gone again at 6am the next day..

2 ( +2 / -0 )

only 4-5 hours after they stop getting paid

Yep. It is common practice in Japan for workers not to claim all of their overtime worked. In fact a lot of it not claimed under pressure from managers. What makes it worse is that the labour unions are complicit with this practice. A company sets a max overtime limit monitored by the union (yeah right), but then allows staff to record the time as activities other than work.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

sad life. sad country.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

what a joke? light needed to be off at 8pm, no workers allowed to work until 9am. that might be more acceptable.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Please. Spare me.

Hubby works for the government and they turn the 'lights' off at around 8 for the same reasons but as it turns out 'lights' really means the air conditioner and vending machines. Everyone stays at work they just boil to death with limited drinking options.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

What? We can only work 14 hours a day? What are we supposed to do with all that free time?

Sarcasm accepted!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

So now they're going to be forced do overtime work in the dark......

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The big thing you guys are missing is that Dentsu is an agency meaning that their efficiency is not am in there hands. I work in PR and sometimes the media won't get back to you until 11 PM and willl expect immediate results.

No doubt Dentsu expects the same from companies it sub-contracts to. And the workers who sent the fax/email at 11pm would probably rather be somewhere else. It is always someone else's fault in Japan but actually it is everybody's fault.

I doubt that the girl who killed herself was waiting for an 11pm fax, she was probably going through endless bureaucratic processes.

If Dentsu said that staff could spend a maximum of 60 hours a week logged on, the world would keep turning. Clients would get used to it and adjust.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Lights off is exactly what it says - they are turning off the lights. And probably giving the employees lamps. No one will be going home.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

'What? Now I have to get overworked in the dark?' Shoganai.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Agreed with some comments here. 10PM is WAY TOO LATE for an office to be open. I'd be more like 8PM though, but fact is, nobody is supposed to be working more than 40-50(pushing it) hrs a week. 60hrs + is burn out city and human beings aren't built for that.

Do your job, be productive in your scheduled hours of work. I work from 12:30 noon to 9:PM 5 days a week. Rarely do I get more than 5-10mins overtime. At my previous job it was 4x10hr days and rarely worked more than an hour overtime.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Many salarymen are going to be complaining that now they have to go home and spend time with the family.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Koike ordered 8 p.m. Tokyo gov't workers stop working. I think 8 pm to close all building might work better. But Dents is Ad agency. Many will bring their work home. Problem will not stop until Japan decrease people shortage.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

But creatives don't need time off...!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Legalize 8 hers a day, for 5days a week max work in Japan. Or relax immigration law against foreign university degreed talents.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Firms are doing this and getting away with it simply because they can. Unions, totally housebroken and beholden to management, are fully on board with family unfriendly work practices that share much in common with cult indoctrination. Hard won working conditions that we in the West take for granted, are under threat from corporate behemoths such as Dentsu which gain a huge competitive advantage from having a compliant, docile workforce. In an increasingly borderless global economy, those who wish to hold on to decent conditions need to understand that "voluntary" labour is a structural impediment that socially responsible firms elsewhere cannot compete with. Imposing tariff surcharges on Japanese exports equivalent to the value of this unfair advantage will send a signal that we mean business.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There are actually big corps and companies that force their workers to take the mandatory days off and go home on time so this problem never bites them in the butt. The company name is more important to the share holders so they don't need bad press of overtime abuse. Chanto yatteru kaisha ga imasu yo..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Reckless - where do you work, and are they hiring?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Depends on what time people start, doesn't it.

@Strangerland more like depends on the business' normal hours of operation. For example I work for a 24/7 pharmacy. So it would be normal for people to work their 8-10hr shift and leave as scheduled. If they come in late then they can stay later than their normal schedule long enough to make up their scheduled shift. But if one is required to stay past their designated work schedule or threatened into staying beyond the normal hours, obviously it's not helpful. Work related stress is normal, over-work related stress is not.

Goal of all companies is to make the work environment as reasonably comfortable as possible for the employees which in turn encourages productivity which makes the clients happy because stuff gets done for them in a timely manner.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I go to work at 9:30AM. Work till 5:00PM. Will go to gym for an hour(at office). By 6:30PM, I will be back to my room. Work is only 5 days a week. Can work from home when I feel like not going to the office. So sad that Japanese are becoming robots. They should change now or they are in a serious trouble.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The big thing you guys are missing is that Dentsu is an agency meaning that their efficiency is not am in there hands. I work in PR and sometimes the media won't get back to you until 11 PM and willl expect immediate results. Sure that's ridiculous but it's par for the course in Japan.

If Dentsu didn't do the hours they do, they would go under because of the nature of everything around them. The entire system has needs change. It's a systemic problem left over from old men who worked their country out of the ashes of WW2.

Unfortunately this can really only change from a paradigm shift that embraced how the world has changed post internet...

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

10PM is WAY TOO LATE for an office to be open.

Depends on what time people start, doesn't it.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

10 Pm seems pretty reasonable to me, that's about when I go home everyday if I am not doing too much overtime and I don't feel "overworked" at all. It seems like relatively normal hours honestly.

-17 ( +0 / -17 )

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