Powerful Typhoon Faxai, the 15th recorded this year, crippled transportation networks after directly striking the Tokyo metropolitan area on Sept. 9, leaving many passengers stuck at train stations.
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The day before the typhoon hit, East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) and other private railway operators announced that they would suspend services from the first train of the morning. JR East's planned suspension extended to all of its lines in the Tokyo metropolitan area. At first the company had planned to resume operations from around 8 a.m., but due to fallen trees and other obstacles, these plans were pushed back on most lines, including the central Yamanote Line.
Crowds subsequently poured into the capital's main stations at the new expected starting times, and stations had to limit entry, creating long snaking lines of people outside the ticket gates. At many stations, exhausted passengers had to wait outside, and some did not arrive at their workplaces until the afternoon.
The fact that many Japanese people tried to make it to work in the wake of the natural disaster could be seen as an expression of their industriousness. Patiently waiting in lines without complaining may also be proof of the calmness of Japanese people. Nevertheless, waiting at stations does nothing for the individual or their company, and is simply a waste of time.
Is it not possible for people to conclude, on such days, that they don't need go to work, or for companies to decide that their employees don't need to turn up?
Telework, where people make use of information communications technology to work from home or other locations, has started to spread across Japan. Where possible, employees could switch to telework.
Of course, in the service industry and in many areas of manufacturing, people actually have to be present for the work to move forward. But in the event of major disruptions to transportation services, surely the idea of continuing work just like on a normal day is unreasonable in the first place.
If employees don't come to work, the company can't do business and profits will fall. But if large groups of people start to take on the mindset that this can't be helped in the event of a natural disaster, then the approach to work will change. Surely only a limited number of people have to come to work without question, such as those maintaining lifelines and those working in the medical field.
In the past, "You don't have to come to work" was a roundabout way of informing a person they were fired. But we should now take this phrase and share it around society as a way of thinking -- that during time of disaster, there's no need to make a point of coming to work.