Could a ‘Workation’ be the Answer to Japan’s Overworking Culture?

Workations might be the solution to Japanese employees’ reluctance to take vacations

MacBook and sunglasses on the lilac table at the seaside
Working on vacation
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Japan has a culture of overworking that sees employees prioritizing work over everything else in their lives. But, a concept that began in Europe and the US is starting to gain interest in Japan. That idea is workations. A workation is when you take time off during a vacation for work. It allows employees to complete time-sensitive tasks while on vacation then get back to enjoying some well-deserved time off.

The idea is gaining popularity in Japan as a way to encourage people to actually take their vacations. Japan’s rate of paid leave taken by employees actually ranked lowest out of 30 countries surveyed by website Expedia. Due to traditional working values, people are usually reluctant to take the paid vacations they are owed as they fear it will reflect badly in the eyes of their superiors.

What are the benefits of a workation?

It is believed that taking a workation can create better work efficiency and help promote fresh ideas owing to the fact that employees are rested and in different or foreign locations. It is already a common practice with people working in IT and those who can work using just their laptops and an internet connection.

People can even go away for an entire summer and work at resorts with their families around them

Big companies giving workations a go

Japan Airlines (JAL) was one of the first companies to test it out by setting up a workation system last summer.

JAL employee, Yoshimasa Higashihara, went on vacation to Singapore. But during his time there he went to a café to work on documents he needed to prepare for a corporate event that was due to take place immediately after his arrival home from vacation.

People can even go away for an entire summer and work at resorts with their families around them, like Noriteru Ino, who works for an IT firm. He has been taking workations for the month of August for the last three years, starting work at 8 am then leaving early to spend time with his family.

Workations can benefit rural areas in Japan

To take advantage of this new trend, different municipalities are trying to entice employees to workation in their areas. Wakayama Prefecture offered Tokyo-based workers the chance to stay in a town called Shirahama on a workation trial basis in July. A large recreation facility was converted into an IT business office with internet access to provide the perfect working environment for people on workation.

The government has been taking measures to improve working conditions in Japan with its work-style reform plan. It has capped overtime hours to reduce the time employees must stay at work in offices, established the principle of equal pay for equal work and a new system whereby employees will be paid on performance instead of hours spent in the workplace.

Workations are certainly something businesses should consider implementing as a means of looking after their employees. After all, a well-rested and happy workforce is a more productive one.

Today’s “otsumami” – a bite size snack:

Taking a workation may be the best way for Japanese employees to be able to enjoy a guilt-free vacation.

What do you think?


Written by Catherine McGuinness

Writer and journalist with a love for all things Japan.

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