Japanese Working Culture: What Is Life in a Humane Manner?

A gorilla is eating something on a rock.

The COVID, the one-way time machine

The COVID is sometimes called “a time machine.” Remote work is a good example. I think most of the companies at least in Japan just pretended to take a positive attitude but actually were not so serious about it before the COVID. In the peak season of 2020, however, the proportion of companies adopting remote work exceeded 50%. For better or worse, the time seems to change quickly and greatly due to the COVID.

Relationships become exclusive

Do you think things will go back to the way we used to be? I don’t think so especially about the changes due to the COVID. Many people have tasted the comfort to avoid personal relationship problems. Due to the rapid rise of the online communication, we can easily communicate with people who we like and also avoid communication with people who we dislike. I think this kind of exclusive relationships would be the most harmful side-effect of this time machine.

Lack of communication creates a social division

In Japan, it was common to drink with colleagues after work. I didn’t personally like it very much but still believe it’s an important chance to communicate with people who aren’t familiar with each other, and with people with different beliefs or of different generations. You may think it’s just a waste of time, but I think it’s a necessary cost to maintain public order because lack of communication often creates a social division. For example, there’re growing calls to obligate elderly drivers to give up their licenses, though young drivers like in their 20’s or 30’s have killed much more people in car accidents, according to the stats. I’m worried if the same thing (division) will happen between countries.

Three craftspeople are sitting on the work table. Probably, they're in a break time.

On the other hand, in our company, we are free of remote work due to the characteristics of this business (furniture manufacturing). We’re still working on-site together with young and old, regardless of nationality in my division. I don’t mean our work place is an ideal world where everyone gets along well with each other. There are always personal relationship problems, of course. We face and solve them to unite above our conflicts and disputes. Please come and see our factory soon after the COVID is over. You can see not only high-level production but also life in a human manner.

A corporate logo, the letters of C and H are combined to look like a tree in a circle

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.