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Tokyo's long-suffering commuters embrace comforts of home-working

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'Japan's commuting population - which includes eight million a day in Tokyo - has long been the face of the nation's old-school work culture'

'Japan's commuting population - which includes eight million a day in Tokyo - has long been the face of the nation's old-school work culture'

'Japan's commuting population - which includes eight million a day in Tokyo - has long been the face of the nation's old-school work culture'

Not long ago, Yuta Kawano rose early every morning to join millions of Tokyo commuters squeezed on to packed trains as he travelled to work - before repeating the ritual in reverse after a long day in the office.

Today, Kawano (26), a human resources manager at a financial services company, has a new routine which was perhaps unimaginable just months ago for Japan's diligent workforce: he is working from home full-time - and not missing his commute one bit.

"When I was commuting, I had to cut back on hours of sleep and prepare for work in the morning," says Kawano, who would spend at least an hour a day on trains, reading books or flicking through his smartphone.

"Now I have much more time because I'm no longer getting the train to work. Before, I never slept enough or had enough time for myself."

Japan's commuting population - which includes eight million a day in Tokyo - has long been the face of the nation's old-school work culture, with its lengthy working hours, hierarchical structures and focus on presenteeism over productivity loss.

Now, however, as Japan grapples with rising coronavirus levels, there are signs of a major shift in corporate culture - with a growing anti-commuting sentiment emerging among office workers who have been given a taste of a different kind of working life.

As many as 70pc of Japan's workers are in favour of working from home rather than commuting daily to the office, even after the virus is contained, according to a recent survey.

This shift in sentiment has prompted speculation the pandemic may lead the nation to carry out long overdue reforms across its often archaic corporate culture.

"Organisations are so stuck in the ways they do things that they cannot change course," says Hiroshi Ono, professor of human resources management at Hitotsubashi University.

"But this time around, many companies did not have the choice and were forced into telework. And once they did, the workers, by and large, realised that it can be done. I am hopeful that companies will change trajectories and that telework will become the new standard.

"The path towards efficiency is to first identify the wastes in how we work. The pandemic has been a timely opportunity to identify such wastes."

© Telegraph

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Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]


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