More companies open to allowing employees to work at home

By Yukako Fukushi / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer Teleworking, a work style that features telecommunications technology that allows people to work at any time or place, is becoming common, buoyed by a recent trend to require a review of conventional work approaches, as well as an improvements in the security level of computers.

Teleworking has become more accessible to many business people, while facilitating frequent internal communications and other issues have emerged.

Hiroshi Muramoto, head of Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co.’s second sub branch office in the western part of Tokyo, in Tachikawa, Tokyo, started working from home once or twice a month in December.

Muramoto, 47, checks his 18 subordinates’ work progress using a company-provided computer for teleworking.

“After my son and daughter leave the house, I can concentrate on work here better than when I’m in the office,” Muramoto said. “It’s good for me because I can carefully weigh middle- and long-term perspective.”

Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance last October increased the number of people who were eligible to work from home. Previously, only assistant section chiefs and workers at lower positions could work at home, but now just about all 13,000 regular employees are eligible to adopt teleworking.

The company’s paperless initiative enables its employees to work outside the office. It has also gone to computers with a high security level for teleworking to provide the similar working environments available in office surroundings.

Lenovo Japan, the Japanese arm of a major computer manufacturer, introduced teleworking in April last year for all its regular employees, without limiting the amount of teleworking time.

Takeshi Murakami, an employee of the company, went to his hometown of Fukuoka in November after he signed up for one week of teleworking.

Given the opportunity, Murakami worked in a shared office in the city and interacted with locals in person and through social media. Murakami hopes to take advantage of such interpersonal connections for new business development.

According to a survey conducted by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, 16 percent of companies with 100 employees or more adopted teleworking in 2015, almost double the 9 percent in 2013.

The government in September listed the promotion of teleworking as one of the pillars of workstyle reform.

Amid a labor shortage, some small- and medium-sized companies started accepting teleworking in a positive way to retain good employees. Yuka Saito, an employee of EnglishCentral, a Tokyo-based company that manages a website for English learners, moved to Kyoto last July after she got married. Saito wanted to continue working, so her company officially introduced teleworking and enabled her to perform the same duties from home as she did before she was wed.

Mika Togashi, secretary general of the Japan Telework Association, said, “I think companies need a wide range of employees to expand themselves amid a labor shortage.”

IT technology for teleworking has also been developed.

“I believe teleworking will accelerate a flexible working environment,” Togashi added.

Rules, communication needed

What preparations are needed before starting teleworking?

Yuri Tazawa, president of Telework Management Inc., and a specialist on the establishment of internal company systems and their operation, said, “Currently, teleworking aims at securing talented personnel, though it has been considered so far as a part of a benefits package mainly for female employees raising children.”

In addition, maintaining more motivation is also required during teleworking, compared to working in the office.

It’s important to check the company’s work guidelines and rules on implementation as most companies have regulations, including how to report the start and end of work days.

To prevent a drop-off in communication, such efforts as keeping in touch with the company via IT technology is recommended.

Companies are basically in charge of taking care of the security level of computers for teleworking. However, special caution is strongly required when using shared office space with others. Leaving computers or cell phones on the desk in such offices should be avoided.

“It’s possible that you will take care of your kids or parents in the future, even though you can work now without any constraints,” Tazawa said. “But don’t consider teleworking as something for others. First give it a try. Why not take a positive approach in your evaluation of teleworking?”Speech

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