Japan Companies Split over Post-Pandemic Remote Working

Courtesy of GMO Internet Group Inc.
Employees work at an office of technology firm GMO Internet Group Inc., which has stopped allowing its workers to work from home, in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Japanese companies are divided over whether to keep remote working arrangements in place after the country downgrades COVID-19 to a lower-risk category of infectious diseases that includes seasonal flu on Monday.

Some major companies have been shifting back to working at the office in principle. Others are cautious about fully returning to the office-based work style.

A survey conducted by Teikoku Databank Ltd., a research company, in March showed about 40% of 11,428 responding companies across the country said they will return to pre-pandemic ways of working once the status of COVID-19 is lowered.

Almost the same proportion of companies said they will continue with work styles introduced during the pandemic. Among companies with over 1,000 employees, those planning to maintain pandemic-era work styles accounted for over 50%.

In April last year, Honda Motor Co. shifted its focus back to face-to-face working at all of its departments. “In the manufacturing industry, having face-to-face conversations while actually looking at products is important,” a public relations official said.

In February this year, technology firm GMO Internet Group Inc. stopped allowing workers to work from home for two days a week in principle in favor of having them come to the office in principle. “Teleworking stalls business as there is no opportunity for people to gather and discuss,” a public relations official said.

“What’s important is to increase productivity regardless of working at the office or from home,” said an official of electronics maker NEC Corp. The share of NEC workers coming to the office has been at around 30% to 40% and the company plans to maintain remote working arrangements.

Mitsubishi Chemical Group Corp. plans to keep its full remote working in place, a system in which workers do not have to come to the office.

Even among companies maintaining remote working, the degree of adoption differs.

Most of sales activities became face-to-face in March at Daiwa Securities Group Inc., which has been judging whether to allow workers to work remotely or not depending on their tasks.

Casio Computer Co. sees the share of workers at the office stands at around 60% recently, a public relations official said.

“We’ll continue exploring the best mix of workplaces,” said an official at trading house Marubeni Corp.