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Japanese companies are moving to further promote remote work by their employees following the rapid spread of the highly infectious omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.

In a videoconference Thursday, economic revitalization minister Daishiro Yamagiwa, also in charge of the government’s measures against the virus, asked leaders of the country’s top three business lobbies, including the Japan Business Federation, or Keidanren, for stepped-up efforts to use remote work further in response to the worsening infection situation.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made a similar request earlier this week.

Acting on government requests, Japanese industries are ready to redouble efforts to balance business continuity and the prevention of COVID-19 infections.

On Friday last week, Mazda Motor Corp., which has its headquarters in the western prefecture of Hiroshima, informed its staff of a decision to put stronger COVID-19 measures in place, including banning business trips, both domestic and overseas, as well as events and group dining in principle. The proportion of employees at the office is being reduced to 30% or below at back-office sections of all domestic bases through the use of remote work.

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. set the maximum rate of back-office workers in the workplace at around 20% for group companies in Hiroshima, neighboring Yamaguchi Prefecture and the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa.

The figure is lower than the earlier level of around 30%, because remote work is taking root within the group, an NTT official said.

Hiroshima, Yamaguchi and Okinawa have been under a quasi-state of emergency over the novel coronavirus since Sunday.

As part of its business continuity planning, Daiwa Securities Group Inc. is allowing remote work and staggered commuting for its employees amid the pandemic.

Beginning Tuesday, a major trading house lowered the proportion of those working at the office and put restrictions on group dining.

Still, many firms are keeping current measures intact.

“We aim to have 40% of employees at our headquarters work remotely, but reducing the number of workers on the ground is difficult,” an official at a major department store operator said.

Keidanren has called on member companies to actively use remote work systems.

But its chairman, Masakazu Tokura, said, “Countermeasures could vary depending on industries and areas, so we want to take a flexible approach.”

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