Japan is a country known for its long working hours. So much so, that despite a number of organisations implementing new flexible working rules over the past few years, employees are not necessarily utilising these benefits.
This year was no different with 83% of our respondents working over their contracted hours. Roughly 80% of the respondents were not compensated for that overtime.
For our 2019 flexible working practice guide we surveyed 625 professionals across multiple industry sectors. Over 90% of the respondents were permanent employees. Our methodology covered all bases by interviewing entry level individuals right up to C- level executives.
Perhaps more worryingly more than half (roughly 57%) felt obligated to work overtime, with roughly one third of that number actually feeling it was expected of them. One aspect our survey did not address was productivity and the effects it has on working longer hours.
There is increased discussion around the correlation of working hours and productivity: It is often perceived that less working hours mean more productive hours.
There also seems to be growing support to move to a 4 day working week.
I can hear the naysayers amongst us saying that would never work in Japan. Not in a country where historically leaving the office before your boss would is frowned upon and where there is a mentality that those who spend the most time at their desks are the most committed employees. Yet one of the world’s largest Tech companies recently trialed a 4 day week in their Japan office (albeit for a limited time) and found that it boosted their sales by a staggering 40%.
Engagement at work continues to be an issue with only half of the respondents engaged at work (a similar result to last year). A similar percentage (54%) of individuals felt that their current work/life balance was either too work focused or needed improvement. Both statistics are sure to have had an impact on how long our surveys see themselves staying at their current companies.
There is a perception that organisations in Tokyo have been slow to adopt flexible working practices, especially when compared with other major cities globally. Over the past few years, however, we have seen marked increase flexibility from the organisations that we partner with. When we compared the results of this survey with those from 5 years ago, we noticed the following:
- Only 40% of respondents organisations offered flexible working hours, which has increased to 60% this year.
- Only 31% allowed their employees to work from home, up to 75% in this year’s results.
So despite some significant improvements in working practices, the majority of respondents felt that they still need to improve their work/life balance.
Engagement levels are still reasonably average. Perhaps the implementation and adoption of these initiatives needs to be looked at.
It is one thing to have these initiatives, but do employees really feel that they can avail of them? Or perhaps more flexibility in the workplace is now a base expectation rather than the “nice to have” it used to be.
Either way if your organisation hasn’t started looking at this topic yet, I would highly recommend you do if you want to retain and attract the best talent.