As the pandemic drags on, Japanese employees are getting comfortable with the “new normal” way of working. But the jury is still out on whether these changes in the workplace are here to stay or will end up being a fad that fades along with the health crisis, Kyodo reports.

The forced transition to telework has coincided with Japan’s embryonic efforts to reshape work in a country known for its rigid corporate culture. In its first report on the issue, a labor ministry panel this month urged managers to change their way of thinking and dramatically expand the scope of teleworking.

Some firms are already there. Brokerage Nomura plans to make flexible work permanent for employees in Japan once the pandemic ends, possibly with the caveat that a minimum 40% of hours be spent in the office each month.

The quiet headquarters of Calbee in Tokyo in August as many employees worked from home. | KYODO
The quiet headquarters of Calbee in Tokyo in August as many employees worked from home. | KYODO

Financial group Mizuho also intends to slash its office space in New York and London due to the success of remote work. The bank will also allow employees to work three or four days a week with reduced salary if they wish, with the aim of preventing talent from leaving the group for more flexible firms.

But wait before you ditch all that work attire. While social media has hosted a lively debate over whether to wear suits while working remotely, with many employees reveling in their newfound freedom to wear what they want, one investor is wagering billions that Japan’s workers will return to the office after the pandemic.

In fact, investment in commercial real estate in Tokyo surged last year, contrasting with declines in New York and Paris. “We don’t think that work from home is going to be a big long-term trend in Asia overall and in Japan specifically,” BentallGreenOak CEO Sonny Kalsi tells Bloomberg. “That’s part of the reason we are bullish on Japanese offices — more so than any other market.”