Japan Just Made A Life-Changing Proposition To The Working Week
The Japanese government has recommended companies give staff more time off, and a radical redesign of working hours, to help improve work-life balance.
The recommendations came as part of the Japanese government’s annual economic policy guidelines, which were finalised last week by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Cabinet, with leaders hoping to convince managers to allow employees more flexibility in their work schedule.
Most notably, the government has proposed a four day working week, instead of the usual five, with other suggestions including flexible working hours, remote working and growing interconnectedness, which are all posed to be beneficial to employees.
In the outline of its campaign, cited by DW, the government proposed a four day working week may be more manageable for employees who are trying to raise a family or take care of elderly relatives, encouraging them to stay on at work rather than leaving to focus on other matters.
The extra day off work may encourage people to seek additional educational qualifications or take on side jobs, though the government is hopeful it would also be used to go out and spend money, in turn boosting Japan’s economy.
A four-day working week could also help resolve a falling birth rate, the leaders suggest, as it will allow young people more time to meet partners and start families.
The suggestions come after the coronavirus pandemic prompted many companies to change the way they work, with some employees having no choice but to work from home. Leaders suggest these changes could remain in place once the global health crisis is at an end without being detrimental to workflow.
Martin Schulz, chief policy economist for Fujitsu Ltd.’s Global Market Intelligence Unit, told DW the government is ‘really very keen for this change in attitude to take root at Japanese companies.’
During the pandemic, companies have shifted to new ways of operating and they are seeing a gradual increase in productivity. Companies are having their employees work from home or remotely, at satellite offices or at their customers’ locations, which can be far more convenient and productive for many.
Schulz pointed out employees have proven during the pandemic that they ‘do not physically need to be in an office five days a week and until late at night to remain productive,’ but noted that as the crisis comes to an end there is a risk companies will ‘slip back into the old way of doing things and insist on all their staff coming into the office all day, every day again.’
He added: ‘For the companies that do not make that mistake, the outcome is win-win.’
Though many employees are interested in the idea of a shorter working week, they are said to be concerned about the knock-on effects, including reduced wages and accusations that they are not fully committed to their company.
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