Work From Home Fad Has Not Hit Japan. Despite High COVID Numbers, Most White Collar Workers Still Go To Office.

In the United States, citizens generally have viewed Japan as being on the cutting edge of technology.

So why are so many businesses in Japan unwilling to embrace an increase in the remote-work model? 

Even with the recent COVID-19 spikes – and current state of emergency now extended to next Tuesday – workers are more likely required to be in the office even as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is urging remote work. 

Perhaps that it’s not “unwilling,” but rather “unable.” 

According to one commuter in Tokyo, who asked Fortune magazine to keep his/her identity hidden, it’s the bosses.

“Japanese ‘fossil’ salary-men cannot understand how to use Zoom or any other applications!” the commuter said. “Because they can’t do their job, and they’re afraid their employers or younger employees will find them out.”

There are varying opinions as to why Japan is struggling with a remote-working model.

Researchers say reasons cover the country’s white-collar work landscape to big businesses’ lack of technical wherewithal.

Japan lacks a competitive level of home computers, with companies reluctant to provide them for workers, and it’s also behind global competitors in the software race.

“Many companies lack the hardware, software, personnel, and organizational structure needed to telework effectively,” Glen S. Fukushima, former president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, told Fortune. 

Regardless, the government’s goal is to cut the number of people heading to offices and job sites by 70 percent as the July 23 start of the Tokyo Olympics nears.

It’s a challenge, given the latest figures from the Fortune story.

A Tokyo-based non-profit, Japan Productivity Center (JPC), reports remote work is up only 20 percent in Japan since the start of the pandemic.

That’s only 10 points higher than pre-pandemic levels, dramatically lower than in the U.S., where 44 percent work from home, up from 17 percent in pre-pandemic times. 

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