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  • Writer's pictureZornitsa Licheva

Japan: Digital Economy Changes Work Culture

Updated: May 12, 2020

How is the country getting accustomed to remote work practices?

As the majority of the global workforce gets accustomed to remote office hours and seeks flexible post-coronavirus business practices, some parts of the world are seeing what may be major cultural changes. While Japan’s businesses prepare for an economic recession, professionals in the region are also looking at new opportunities and challenging emblematic workforce norms.

Making remote work possible

Many companies in Japan, including some large corporations, were not making the most of the opportunity to work remotely before the Covid-19 outbreak, editor Ryan Takeshita reflects for the World Economic Forum (WEF). Now, with protective measures in force, businesses have the chance to discover the advantages of some online tools to support their day-to-day operations and communication.

A survey conducted at the end of February 2020 by financial media publication The Nikkei, owner of the Financial Times, revealed that about 50% of Japan’s leading firms have switched to teleworking, at least partially. The research included 140 companies from the region.

According to Ryan Takeshita, this new transition can be viewed as a challenging but positive way to normalise remote working practices. Leading Japanese companies such as Panasonic and Unicharm are already setting a precedent, as they have instructed thousands of their employees to work at home when possible.

Proving that remote communication can be applied successfully in different situations, Breakthrough Business University in Japan made the news with its virtual graduation ceremony. Using several mobile robots and a videoconferencing platform, university staff, students, and family members could connect without being physically together.

Japan’s changing work culture

The East Asian country is often associated with the workaholic tendencies promoted or tolerated by local businesses to sustain success. However, practices such as “spending long hours in the office, going to drinks with clients late at night, and working overtime” are beginning to shift in light of the Covid-19 outbreak.

More time spent at home is also prompting families to reconsider traditional domestic roles,” Mr Takeshita highlights for WEF. Men and women have no choice but to challenge the norms in their households to accommodate their new working routines.

Recruitment in Tokyo and other large financial centres is also not what it used to be as freshly minted university graduates and new employees are receiving their corporate training via videoconferencing. This is what Kakeru Suzuki, a 22-year-old graduate of Tokyo University, shared for the Financial Times. Mr Suzuki, who recently joined ecommerce group Rakuten, believes online will become the norm: “I feel like I’m witnessing a turning point of such transition as my training is carried out virtually.

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