Japanese commuters are being encouraged to work from home, albeit only on July 24. The nationwide "Telework Day" is an experiment aimed at reducing congestion as the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo draw nearer.
Japan on Monday launched a scheme to promote working from home in an effort to ease traffic jams and soften a notoriously rigid work culture in the world's third-largest economy.
Almost 930 companies across the Asian nation are participating in "Telework Day" to be held on July 24 each year from now until the Olympics opening ceremony set for July 24, 2020.
"Once the Olympics start, it will be hard to get to work, so we're doing this as an experiment," said Takashi Kozu, president of the Ricoh Institute of Sustainability and Business.
But the upcoming Olympics are not the only reason for the experiment. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently introduced policies to shorten working hours and curb abuse of labor. Telework could be another way to reform working practices that some experts say are behind the times.
Boosting employees' motivation?
"The lifestyles of younger generations are changing, so firms should offer alternative work styles to maintain employees' incentive," Kozu added.
The plan is to rethink Japan's workaholic tradition where men routinely spend long hours in the office and little time with their families.
Telework has been slow to catch on across many industries in Japan, partly because firms have long put a lot of emphasis on having workers be physically present, often for more than 12 hours a day.
It remains to be seen whether the current experiment will really contribute to easing Tokyo's and other cities' congestion problems.
London introduced a similar measure during the 2012 Olympics, with 80 percent of businesses in the British capital participating.
hg/tr (Reuters, AFP)