Business

Webcams and headsets selling in Japan as virus prompts rush to telework

Kyodo

Sales of webcams and headsets are rising across Japan as more people opt to work from home amid growing fears of the spread of the new coronavirus.

Behind the robust sales of such communications equipment is a government request urging companies to proactively encourage telework, allowing employees to avoid the potential infection risk of congested rush-hour trains in Tokyo and other major urban areas.

Electronics retailer BicCamera Inc. has set up a section at its flagship store in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district where shoppers can find various kinds of telecommunication equipment for working from home.

According to the retailer, many consumers are buying several sets of gear, apparently to distribute to colleagues.

Sales of such products in the three-day period after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s request on Feb. 25 that companies promote staggered commuting and telework doubled compared to the year before, the store said.

Ryoichi Narai, acting store manager, said that sales of telework products have risen more quickly than expected. “Many companies seem to have adopted telework under the circumstances.”

One shopper, a 28-year-old man who runs a company, said he worked from home for about two weeks last month due to poor health.

“It’s easier to communicate when we see each other’s faces. It might be good to have a web camera,” he said.

Yodobashi Camera Co. also said the sales of such products have been rising, including through online sales.

Fears of the spread of the virus may unexpectedly boost the government’s efforts to promote telecommuting — a concept many companies have been slow to adopt primarily due to Japan’s corporate culture.

In addition to the goal of reducing the concentration of commuters in major cities, particularly Tokyo during this summer’s Olympics and Paralympics, the government has been pushing for an expansion of work reform to address the nation’s notoriously long office hours and improve productivity despite an aging population.

But it still remains to be seen how the spread of the virus could change a notion among Japanese companies that their operations are not suited for working from home.

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