Many companies in Japan have introduced remote working since the coronavirus reached the country's shores early last year, but those regularly working from home and elsewhere has been limited mainly to office staff.
Employees working from places other than their regular offices, including homes, accounted for 19.2% of all workers in Japan this month, a survey by the Japan Productivity Center found.
The figure is almost unchanged since last July, little affected by the January to March coronavirus state of emergency and quasi-emergency measures in some areas, including Tokyo.
The impact of the measures including the past emergency declaration "is waning," the center said. But the results of the quasi-emergency measures were particularly apparent, producing "no impact," the center added.
A survey conducted by the Japan Business Federation, or Keidanren, in January showed that remote working has become an option at 90% of respondent companies. Keidanren estimated that the spread of the practice helped reduce the number of workers commuting to their regular workplaces by some 870,000.
Some companies have managed to cut the number of workers present at regular workplaces by 70% and started consolidating business bases.
For example, tire maker Bridgestone Corp. will reduce the number of its major domestic offices to 34 from 47. Bridgestone, which pays ¥200 per day to each employee working from home, slashed the office attendance rate to 30% last month.
Meanwhile, work styles have changed little at plants run by major manufacturers of automobiles, electronics, steels and other products. Workers commute to their factories, but take rigorous coronavirus precautions.
Companies that have not introduced a remote working option have cited the need for in-person customer services, security problems and a number of other factors as reasons.
"The types of work that cannot be done without in-person contact are increasing," Nobuyuki Koga, chairman of Keidanren's Board of Councilors, recently said in response to Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike's request for the further promotion of remote work.
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