National

Workers from Japan's big cities decamp to Matsue in Shimane for teleworking stress test

JIJI

The city of Matsue in Shimane Prefecture has embarked on an experiment to find out whether teleworking in the regional city helps reduce the stress levels of businesspeople who normally work in major cities.

The city hopes the experiment will demonstrate the health-promoting benefits of teleworking, or working outside regular workplaces using information and communications technology.

Positive results will encourage regional cities to attract more people from large cities and have companies launch new businesses in the mental health and teleworking fields, Matsue city officials said.

Eleven parties are participating in the experiment, including the city of Matsue, information technology companies such as Microsoft Japan Co., and Shimane University.

The subjects are 40 businesspeople, mainly engineers and consultants, working at six IT firms in major cities, including Tokyo and Nagoya.

They will stay in Matsue for five days and work at satellite offices or other places.

While in Matsue, they will take part in relaxing activities such as yoga and walking.

For each participant, data on things such as blood pressure, saliva and heart rate will be taken before, during and after their stay in the city to quantify stress levels. Shimane University will examine the data to see whether there is a change in the stress levels before and after their stay.

On Aug. 20, five workers from Microsoft Japan started teleworking at a satellite office in Matsue.

One of the participants, Rie Sasaki, a 30-year-old who lives in Tokyo, described her commute on a crowded Tokyo train as “agonizing.”

While she sometimes works from home, she said, “If I stay at home for long hours, my mind shrinks and I become fatigued.

“In Matsue, I find it easier to concentrate and come up with new ideas.”

The participants will visit Matsue until around December to take part in the experiment.

Following the experiment, companies that joined the project are hoping to cultivate new business opportunities, such as developing remote work programs as part of companies’ employee welfare systems, as well as developing technologies that analyze the measured data.

Matsue will promote the city’s attractive working environment in the hope of increasing the number of people with ties to Matsue, encouraging IT firms to open offices in the city and promoting local tourism.

“If the results are positive, the experiment will be useful for other regions across Japan that are working on the same tasks, such as combating population decline and promoting health,” said Fumie Hayashi, 54, who organized the experiment as a member of a project team at the Matsue Municipal Government that is tasked with boosting the city’s economic development.

“This experiment has huge potential, as many companies are looking for new workplaces ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics,” during which teleworking is being encouraged, Hayashi said.