Japanese companies are implementing 4-day weeks as they reopen

Recently I made the case in The Atlantic that companies should adopt a 4-day week in order to make offices and workplaces safer, and to help companies develop more resilient in the face of future crises. Now, some Japanese companies are planning to implement 4-day weeks when they return to work. According to Nippon.com,

Toshiba Corp. plans to adopt a four-day workweek system for manufacturing staff at its group factories across Japan as part of an effort to reduce novel coronavirus infection risks, company officials have said.

After reaching an agreement with its labor union, the company hopes to start the new work system in June at the earliest, covering about 10,000 workers of its total domestic group workforce of some 76,000, the officials said.

Those 10,000 are factory workers who can’t work from home; the rest of the workforce will continue to do various kinds of remote and flexible work. Also,

Engineers, who handle large volumes of design data, in particular, cannot complete their tasks via telework alone. The new system will allow them to come to office fewer times by dropping core work hour requirements.

Other companies are following a similar strategy, the Nikkei Asian Review reports:

Semiconductor manufacturer Renesas Electronics will also introduce a four-day workweek, signaling that the prospects for a long-term battle with the pandemic are forcing companies to reassess their work habits.

This could be the start of a bigger shift. The Japan Times reports that the Japan Business Federation, or Keidanren, has

called on member companies to introduce a four-day workweek and seek flexible ways to hold upcoming shareholders meetings as part of guidelines on how to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus….

The federation recommended the introduction of a four-day workweek and the promotion of teleworking as well as flexible business hours and working shifts as ways to ease congestion on public transportation.

The group has spent the last few years advocating for policies to give people more rest and leisure, so this isn’t too much of a surprise; but it may be that, just in New Zealand and Scotland, the pandemic provides an opportunity to make changes in Japan that have been long-desired but seemed out of reach.

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