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Companies encourage holidays, weekends without email

News Desk

The Japan News/Asia News Network

 /  Tue, September 13, 2016  /  05:55 pm
Companies encourage holidays, weekends without email

Concerns about intraoffice emails on days off have been raised overseas. (Shutterstock/-)

Corporate employees often feel stressed and unable to relax from dealing with work emails on Saturdays and Sundays. Yet some companies are encouraging their employees to avoid emailing outside of working hours so their days off will be truly “off.”

The practice could also help eliminate useless messages and make work more efficient. The issue has been raised overseas in the form of the debate over a “right to disconnect.”

“Many people at my workplace are frustrated about getting emails and Line messages from their superiors on weekends,” a 31-year-old woman who works at a Tokyo real estate company said.

“Emails that need to be dealt with immediately are mixed in with those that don’t, so I end up having to read all of them. It’s stressful,” she added, echoing the complaints of many company employees.

Members of the BANK・R Solution sales department at Tokyo-based Information Services International-Dentsu, Ltd. were exchanging numerous emails even on Saturdays and Sundays.

“It became customary to submit reports to colleagues from home or on business trips, even on weekends. We created an unwritten rule that emails had to be checked when they arrived,” said Hayata Yasuhiro, 49, the head of the department.

Even regular employees were receiving 15 to 20 emails on Saturdays and Sundays.

Last year, the topic of emailing on weekends came up when the sales department held meetings on working habits on the recommendation of the human resources department.

As a trial, employees were told they could use their own judgment to decide what messages were urgent and merited a response. Yasuhiro said he was surprised at how well things worked out.

“Emailing on Saturdays and Sundays declined dramatically. Maybe it’s because they felt more refreshed, but members of the department started coming up with the creative ideas we needed,” Yasuhiro said.

In some cases the initiatives are company-wide.

(Read also: Pizza motivates employees to work harder than cash: Study)

Johnson & Johnson K.K., a major medical products firm based in Tokyo, began in April urging employees to refrain from nonurgent intracompany emails on their days off and after 10 p.m. on workdays. The company said it is trying to improve its employees’ work-life balance.  

Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corp., a Kawasaki-based commercial auto manufacturer, uses a system that prevents employees on long vacations from receiving intracompany emails.

The person that sends the email receives an automatic reply saying the message has been deleted and to send it again after a certain date.

The firm’s parent company, Daimler AG, uses the same system, which was introduced in Japan two years ago. Urgent emails are not deleted.

“We’ve prevented workers from being swamped with emails after they get back from vacation. We want people to make sure they’re not sending needless messages,” a company spokesperson said.

Concerns about intraoffice emails on days off have been raised overseas.

France has debated legislating on the right not to have to deal with company emails outside of working hours. This so-called right to disconnect received worldwide attention.

In Japan, the issue has been discussed extensively online, including on the legal website bengo4.com.

“People tend to think they have to respond to emails that arrive on their days off, even if it’s not urgent. This may encourage people to work long hours and worsen mental health,” said Yoshikazu Tagami, a lawyer who manages the site.

Yoshie Komuro, president of the Tokyo-based consulting firm Work-Life Balance Co., said: “Feeling fully refreshed increases productivity at work. Working people are placing importance on how much time off they have. Since companies that don’t guarantee time off won’t get the best workers, companies also can’t help but pay attention to the ‘right to disconnect.’