Jul 14, 2015

    Stressed out, but stuck at work

    DEAR Troubleshooter,

    I'm a woman in my 20s. I can't get enough time off from work and am becoming more and more frustrated.

    My main role is to make bento meals to sell at convenience stores. I enjoy doing this and I'm proud of it. So I don't have any intention of quitting. My colleagues praise my work attitude, saying that I'm reliable.

    However, as I'm so busy with work, I can take only one day off each week. I have to work on national holidays, and all through the year-end and New Year period.

    I tend to get colds more frequently than before. Once I get a cold, I can't shake it off so quickly. I've managed to cope with it each time by taking nonprescription medicine. But I'm concerned about my health, which may deteriorate.

    It's also tough that my bosses won't listen to my request for more days off. They constantly tell me that if I take more days off, our workplace will be shorthanded and that would cause problems.

    I want to improve myself by taking cultural lessons and learning something enlightening on my days off. I also want to refresh myself by taking trips.

    Due to the accumulated mental stress, I quarrel with my friends more often and have begun scratching my skin.

    I'm aware some unemployed people are seeking jobs. So my hopes may be selfish. But I'm almost going crazy from stress. Please advise me.

    Dear Ms K,

    It seems your sincere work attitude has been acknowledged by your colleagues. You are a happy person as you enjoy doing your work and are proud of it. However, I feel you work a bit too hard.

    I think your company exploits your work ethic. If this situation continues without improvement, you will be more frustrated due to excessive fatigue and will ultimately become ill.

    Companies in Japan are legally required to consider their employees' health and safety. They are not allowed to overwork their employees to exhaustion.

    Japan's laws stipulate that employees' work hours should, in principle, be eight hours a day and 40 hours a week, and workers who have worked continuously for a certain period of time should be guaranteed a number of paid vacation days.

    With these things in mind, why don't you formally request the company improve your situation?

    For example, if the company reduces your workload or assigns part of your work on off days to other employees, you can probably get rid of your stress.

    I also suggest that you visit a labour consultation centre or similar office in your area beforehand, to seek advice on how to handle the issue with your company.