Women and the workplace in Japan
Work culture reform has become a popular idea with both companies and the Japanese government, but more than 80% of Japan’s working population believes this effort is more about hype than real progress. Today, 21% of Japan’s working population logs over 49 hours per week, and only 13% of employees whose companies have work-from-home policies have actually done so.
In addition, according to a research study conducted by Google in 2017, 69% of study participants said they want to change their company’s work culture, but didn’t know how. Only 25% of study participants confirmed that workstyle changes were already taking place at their companies.
This lack of progress in work culture reform is felt most acutely by Japanese women who, in addition to working outside the home, are also traditionally responsible for housework and childcare. Due to these societal expectations, women see Japan’s long working hours and inflexible work culture as barriers to their career progress. In fact, two out of three Japanese women leave the workforce permanently after becoming mothers.
About Work Culture Reform
Womenwill's Work Culture Reform program was designed to create more inclusive workplaces across Japan. Employees can take four online courses to help them learn how to work remotely, improve productivity, reduce overtime, and create a better work-life balance. And employers can download the Work Culture Reform Playbook, which features a plan for implementing better work practices.
The Work Culture Reform Playbook was the result of a “Future Work Style” trial program in which area experts and 30 partner companies used technology to test the work principles of “Work Anywhere,” “Work Simply,” and “Work Shorter.”
Promising feedback for “Work Anywhere”
Before going back to work, Mochizuki was feeling overwhelmed by the idea of balancing the demands of her busy life. “Going to work, doing housework when I get back home, and trying to be on top of everything really stresses me out,” she shared. Hamasaki had similar concerns, explaining, “I want to be faithful to my job without making excuses about having a child, and I don’t want to have to make excuses to my child about my job either.”
Another employee, Yamamoto Hirofumi, continued, “It’s so great to work from home because I can concentrate. Another good thing is that I have more time for hobbies outside of work.”
Managers also found that remote work was good for their teams. Adachi Mamiyo said: “From the viewpoint of a boss, I don’t know exactly how everyone is working, but I’m not worried about it as we’ve shared our calendars with each other.” Another manager Kondo Yasuyuki, shared: “Everyone still thinks that ‘Work Anywhere’ is only for someone who has kids or some kind of limitation. But I’ve received very good feedback from the participants who don’t have kids too.”
There’s more than just anecdotal evidence to prove that remote work can be successful. Before the pilot, 47% of participants said they thought no work could be done from home, whereas this number decreased to 12% after the pilot. Similarly, before the pilot, only 23% of participants thought they could be more focused at home than at the office; this number rose to 59% after the pilot. In addition, pre-pilot, 32% thought that working anywhere other than the office could lead to problems. This number decreased to 3% post-pilot.
The Future Work Style program isn’t limited to where people work; it also focuses on how they work. After applying the “Work Simply” principles, 66% of participants succeeded in shortening meeting times. They also applied the “Work Shorter” principles to reduce average working hours from 8-9 hours to 7-8 hours.
While there is still progress to be made on principles of Work Anywhere, Work Simply, and Work Shorter, the Future Work Style Trial program has given employers and employees concrete data that proves the efficacy of workforce reform, and a plan for putting it into place. Sato Hiroki, a professor at Chuo University, shared, “We tend to think it’s impossible to reform work styles, but this can change bit by bit. We should do it as much as we can little by little and go along with it.”
Visit the program's website to see how participants are getting inspired.Learn more