Sep 20, 2016

    More Japanese firms urge employees to disconnect on days off


    CORPORATE workers often feel stressed and unable to relax as a result of dealing with work e-mails on weekends.

    Some companies are now encouraging their employees to avoid checking e-mails outside of working hours so their days off will be truly "off".

    The practice could also help eliminate useless messages and make work more efficient. The issue has been raised overseas in the form of the debate over a "right to disconnect".

    "Many people at my workplace are frustrated about getting e-mails and Line messages from their superiors on weekends," said a 31-year-old woman who works at a Tokyo real estate company.

    "E-mails that need to be dealt with immediately are mixed in with those that don't, so I end up having to read all of them. It's stressful," she added, echoing the complaints of many company employees.

    At the sales department of BANK·R Solution at Tokyo-based Information Services International-Dentsu, employees were receiving numerous e-mail messages over the weekend.

    They also have to submit reports from home or on business trips on non-working days.

    Last year, employees were put on a trial where they decided for themselves which messages were urgent enough to merit a response on weekends.

    Hayata Yasuhiro, 49, who heads the department, said the practice of sending e-mail on weekends "declined dramatically".

    Johnson & Johnson K. K., a major medical products firm based in Tokyo, began in April urging employees to refrain from non-urgent intra-company e-mails on their days off and after 10pm on workdays.

    The company said it is trying to improve its employees' work-life balance.

    Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus, a Kawasaki-based commercial auto manufacturer, uses a system that prevents employees on long vacations from getting intra-company e-mails.

    The person who sends the e-mail receives an automatic reply saying the message has been deleted and to send it again after a certain date.

    The firm's parent company, Daimler, uses the same system, which was introduced in Japan two years ago. Urgent e-mails are not deleted.

    "We want people to make sure they're not sending needless messages," a company spokesman said.

    Yoshie Komuro, president of Tokyo-based consulting firm Work-Life Balance, said: "Feeling fully refreshed increases productivity at work.

    "Since companies that don't guarantee time off won't get the best workers, companies also can't help but pay attention to the 'right to disconnect'."