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News Navigator: What is 'remote work' and how do people carry it out in Japan?

A person on a vacation with his family works remotely from a campsite in the town of Kushimoto, Wakayama Prefecture, on Aug. 23, 2019. (Mainichi/Akane Imamura)

The Mainichi answers some common questions readers may have about "remote work," which has recently become popular among Japanese companies, and how employees carry it out.

Question: What is remote work?

Answer: It's a working arrangement in which employees carry out their duties at home, cafe or anywhere outside their office, and basically has the same meaning as "telework." In Japan, start-up companies and information technology (IT) firms owned by young people usually call this work style remote work rather than telework.

Q: How do people work remotely?

A: Employees use laptops or other devices that can connect to the internet, and do not need to commute. For example, employees with Tokyo-based IT firm SonicGarden Inc. all work remotely, and even get together online for drinks. Telecommunication apparently makes it easier for them to get to know each other, as they are at home in a comfortable setting.

Remote work is also leading to the revitalization of regional areas. After Tokyo-based business card management company Sansan Inc. set up a satellite office in the Tokushima Prefecture town of Kamiyama in western Japan, IT firms and many other companies began gathering in the area.

Remote work reduces commuting time and promotes the digitalization of work, leading to increased productivity. Furthermore, employees are said to become more innovative as a change in their place of work allows them to network and increase business opportunities.

Q: What other work styles are there?

A: There's also "workation," which allows people to remotely work while on vacation, and "bleisure," which refers to the activity of combining business travel with leisure time.

As a Mainichi Shimbun reporter, I went on a workation with my two daughters during their spring and summer breaks and traveled to Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido and Wakayama Prefecture in western Japan. Workation allows kids to make special memories without their parents having to take extended leave.

While several issues still surround remote work -- such as information management, performance evaluation and allocation of expenses -- implementation of the new work style is likely to spread among even more Japanese firms in the future.

(Japanese original by Akane Imamura, Integrated Digital News Center)

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