Photo: Illustration by Karla Engdahl
national

Arguments for 'right to disconnect' from work draw more attention amid pandemic

35 Comments

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

© KYODO

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

35 Comments
Login to comment

All communications from an employer should cease outside of normal working hours. Persistent abusers should be fined.

24 ( +26 / -2 )

Although he no longer has to spend the one-hour commute to Kasumigaseki, the location in Tokyo of most of Japan's ministry offices, he says he is frequently bothered by inquiries from his boss and other ministries while at home.

Hey, this sounds exactly like my situation! lol. As someone in this kind of predicament, I just turn off my computer and put my phone on airplane mode once I finish my hours for the day, I never had my job call me on my landline anyway. If they ever question me about it, I just tell them I'm off duty and I'm not getting paid extra for staying a minute or an hour beyond what is required. I remember discussing this same topic with an overzealous co-worker before the pandemic and what he told me was "we're being paid to work, we should give a little extra from time to time."

While I will agree that working from home is a HUGE RELIEF from the stresses of commuting and social interaction with people you probably despise, work still tries to throw you curve balls with these gray zone tactics. One thing I'd like to point out to others is that your company (mine did and it's annoying) might have formed private groups on social media where they give their announcements and gossip most of the time, so it kinda blurs the line between your social life and work life. I thankfully avoid social media anyway. I seriously think that such a law will not gain ground in Japan and even if it does, no company will abide by it.

18 ( +18 / -0 )

so even with WFH those PUNK Japanese bosses STILL find a way to harass their employees. and the USELESS LDP does NOTHING about it. Disgusting

10 ( +14 / -4 )

The employees need to be tougher and stand up for their rights. Turn the damned thing off out of work hours.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

Zichi

As a company owner, and thus an employer, I need to sometimes inform staff of changes in their work schedule. So, with your logic, it would be better for employees to turn up for work to find they are required to go to another branch or they didn't actually have to come in at that time and could have come in later??? There is absolutely no need to bombast employees with unnecessary communication but such a ridiculous blanket ban would be unfeasible to many companies.

-8 ( +10 / -18 )

While Japan currently has no similar legislation, a report compiled by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare at the end of last year urges labor and management to create rules for each company, and it is likely measures will be taken in the future.

I wish there was a graphic to show the effctiveness and compliance to the urges that emanate from JGov.

The ones directed at Japan Inc. to raise wages, follow labor laws, maintain decent working conditions and the one above would be flatlined I reckon.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

The only person from work whose calls I answer on the weekend are those of my company’s CEO, and that’s only because 99.9% of the time he is inviting me out for expensive dinner and drinks.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

I don’t know .... I usually only get contacted it’s urgent and a five minute conversation to resolve something quickly isn’t that much of an ask.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

samuraivunyl

Zichi

As a company owner, and thus an employer, I need to sometimes inform staff of changes in their work schedule. So, with your logic, it would be better for employees to turn up for work to find they are required to go to another branch or they didn't actually have to come in at that time and could have come in later??? There is absolutely no need to bombast employees with unnecessary communication but such a ridiculous blanket ban would be unfeasible to many companies.

I have run my own business successfully for 50 years.

You need to inform your staff then you should do it within the normal working hours. What do you think happened before the internet or are you too young. If employees turn off their phones/messages/emails then they don't open them until the next day.

I have also been in a work situation where I am on standby, to be called in at any time of night or day. In those days we used pagers for that. But I was paid additional money for the standby whether I was called in or not.

Employees are there for your beck and call. Appreciate their private time and lives.

Emails can be spent at a time just prior to when an employee would be normally preparing to leave home.

21 ( +21 / -0 )

wah wah wah, at least they have a job so stop complaining.

-20 ( +3 / -23 )

some are demanding action to ensure employees can refuse phone calls and emails on their days off to clarify the blurred boundaries between personal and professional life.

In Japan, it seems many companies think you should be on call 24/7. I have always had clear boundaries whether the company liked it or not: Unless something was stated or agreed upon beforehand, when I walk out the door work is finished. You can try to contact me but I have a right to refuse and when I am on vacation I accept no communication.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

I really miss the old days when there was no wireless communication - only had a house phone - with an unlisted number. When I left work, good luck finding me.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Yes I got an e-mail late on Thursday with a deadline on Sunday even though I am on vacation and not at home. Ridiculous. Cannot reason with such people. The amount of e-mail during the pandemic is too much.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This is a problem in many countries and some like France have established a law to protect workers.

In Japan, it is much easier for a foreigner not to answer than a Japanese employee. And if people stay late when at the office, they will be expected to stay late at home

But everything is related to the kind of work. There are urgent matters outside the working hours.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Wow! Grow a pair and shut off your phone.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Don't answer your phone.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

turn the phone off?

8 ( +8 / -0 )

I'm not an employer, so I'm all for work is work and off duty means my time is my time. I can understand that the employer's perspective is: if you are here just for the money, I don't want you. I want people who will put the company first. If that means, I have to contact you outside your work hours then you better answer.

When I was overseas, I enjoyed working, and I was there for voluntary and mandatory overtime. Here in Japan, it's just a job; I'm doing it for the paycheck.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

It’s called claiming overtime under the Labor Standards Act.

Japanese people need to start enforcing their rights instead of waiting for another law to be passed that requires the government to proactively enforce those rights. If this happened, the work culture would change.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Clients need to understand the needs of companies and demands on people that they do business with, and act reasonably; especially global work across multiple time zones, but the current economic situation has really made it difficult for businesses and people.

For example, last December, I received a request in the evening from the US for an estimate for a project two years away with barebones details, and they wanted a quote the next morning for 'budget planning'.

You have to ask yourself; "Do I want the work, or do I want the free evening/night?"

Company needed the money, so I put together a rough quote with a buffer and lots of provisos. Slept in the next day!

That's the reality....

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I have the right to answer duri'g off time (I am French employee).

Still I never needed that right to make my own right active.

I have never been a slave and never will be (not paid for work and/or available 24/24).

Even with due respect to all, I assume it is also psychological with a natural behavior between alphas (leaders) and betas (followers).

I give much to my company because salary is very correct, but salary not being that expandable, I give right to not to answer, even to bosses.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

For those privileged enough to be able to dictate their own conditions (logging off after work hours etc) that’s wonderful and good for you to be in such a privileged position.

Unfortunately for some, if they refuse to switch off they will lose money or their jobs which aren’t easy to replace in this pandemic. Some people aren’t in a position to dictate to their companies how and when they will work and need the government to intervene.

Please think of others before commenting what others should do.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Unfortunately for some, if they refuse to switch off they will lose money or their jobs which aren’t easy to replace in this pandemic. Some people aren’t in a position to dictate to their companies how and when they will work and need the government to intervene.

Those people need to go to their nearest Labor Standards Office and have a chat.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I am in sales. Its 24/7 in Japan. When clients is ready to buy you have to be ready. As well long hours required at my dealership. If you love what your doing and getting paid well plus shakai houken, bonuses other benefits and at the executive level in super car sales like myself. I am not sure this law is going involve me or if I even want it too. Allot of this over working culture in Japan is sort of self inflicted too. I have always seen that eager beaver type trying to be the super worker and can not say (no) to the boss or others. Then ends up in some sort of bind or burnout then like a bird into a wall of house. There they go. Downski! Too go to Hello work for the big claim. The big payout. Only to find out. Did you quit or were you terminated? Quit hold on to your horses there three months salary-less. Termination with proof of over work? Well just go ahead and get ready to get paid and milk her for all she is worth. Then under the table tele work free lance and get double income. Just make sure you get paid in cash.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Problem is that many Japanese are taught from a very young age to put up and shut up so they will never speak what they are thinking..

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Likewise, distance employees need a break . . . especially on the weekend.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Once I'm out of the gate, i never pick up calls related to work unless it's an emergency. More importantly, don't keep thinking about the calls. Just ignore it until you're back to work. People can do this easily but complicates themselves because of the fear. Make yourself feel good.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It’s not just Japanese workers. Most foreign execs or employers I know, and I do as well, have told me they check their emails at night and on weekends, even at times when they are overseas. It’s become a habit. If it’s not urgent, I reply by saying, “I’ll get back to you tomorrow or on Monday.”

I can think of several examples when it might be necessary for a manager or boss to contact an employee after hours. It depends on the industry, of course. There might be someone suddenly sick and an employee has to be notified to fill in for that person tomorrow; or there has been a technical problem at the office, for example, the server crashed; or a meeting has suddenly come up that you need to attend, so please go directly there before coming to the office. Or I didn’t get a chance to see you this afternoon before you left. Is everything ready for the presentation or meeting tomorrow morning? And so on.

And for those people saying just turn off the phone, that might be doable if you have a company cell phone as well as your own. If not, it hardly makes sense to turn off your phone on weekends or at night. Then no one can call you. Not friends or family.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I enjoy not having to work and deal with this. It is great being retired at such a early age. Legislation needs to be written tomorrow! But we know in reality there will be a five year plan..with the intention of letting people forget about the legislation and move on..to never seeing change.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I disagree with that. There are cases when you need communication access to special employees, for instance an IT guy if there are currently hacking attempts are going on, or an engineer who is the only one knowing about a special appliance soon to fire or explode. You have to solve those conflicts pragmatic not with a feeling of hate between employer and employees. In general their is of course a certain responsibility to let the staff their private life, but also some responsibility of an employee for the colleagues and company, so that all can keep going on working, not the whole thing burning down , exploding or all data lost, because you deny to have short look on your device outside working hours.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Sven Asai

That is why there is "standby" but companies need to pay someone for it. There is additional pay if actually called into work, including over the internet. If the call out goes beyond a certain number of hours there are additional benefits like pay and extra vacation time.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@ P. Smith

When was the last time you got to the Labor Standards Office and had a chat with them and how did it go ?

@ samuraivunyl

I hope you are aware that change of work schedule is not so free by japanese law and made sure you are on the right tracks.

@ Sven Asai

What if the employee is dead drunk ? out of covering zone ? in hospital ? ...

As pointed by Zichi, there is a system for employer to have to be available : it is being on call. But that imply having to pay them at some negotiated/by law rate.

If companies want/need people available 24/7 they should just rely on the on call system. Employee non on-call should not be called except in the instance of the employee on-call called sick or the like and they need someone else to cover up the on-call duty. Not because they have nobody on-call to begin with.

It is more or less the same for high end employee, they are expected to be on call 24/7 but can readjust their schedule afterward to make up if they ended up working at an unexpected time and are well paid for that, I guess Wandelust example reliate to that. That is not what most of workers dealing with that issue are contracted to.

If employer want employee to be available out of contracted working hours, they should give in exchange. It is not take and take then take again and a little bit more take when they are at it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

When I'm on call-out duty and need to go to work, the company sends a taxis to collect and another to take me home.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@zichi, I thought you were a retired artist? Hardly any relevance to overwork in a Japanese company luckily.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Reckless

@zichi, I thought you were a retired artist? Hardly any relevance to overwork in a Japanese company luckily.

You are correct. I am retired officially and receive my pension but I continue to work daily as an artist. You never retire from that.

Before that, in the UK I was also an engineer so I have posted my comments based on my experience which is the same as what people experience now and in this country. Companies phoning or emailing their employees outside of normal working hours is not unique to Japan. In fact, it's a global situation especially with more people working from home because of the pandemic.

Some company situations never change.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites