Work-Life Balance in Japan

Promoting Work-Life Balance in Japan’s SMEs: Best Practices for Improved Employee Wellness and Competitiveness

Work life balance in Japan, working in Japan, SMEs, Overworking in Japan, Employee well-being
A crowd of people on a Japanese subway train. Tired.

The Impact of Japan’s Cultural Emphasis on Work and its Effect on Employee Well-Being

In today’s fast-paced world, finding a balance between work and personal life is becoming increasingly difficult for many people. Long working hours, commutes, and demanding job responsibilities can leave little time for personal goals and relationships. This is particularly true in Japan, where the traditional cultural emphasis on work can sometimes lead to burnout and stress. However, many SMEs in Japan are taking a proactive approach to address these challenges and are implementing measures to support work-life balance for their employees.


In 2015, a survey conducted by Expedia Japan found that 53% of Japanese people needed to be made aware of the amount of annual leave they had, and only 52% agreed that a work-life balance was essential.

In 2021, Japanese workers clocked an average of 136.1 hours per month, as reported by Statista. This figure is slightly higher than the previous year’s 135 hours, but still significantly lower than their peak of 147.1 hours in 2012.

Despite this, many employees feel guilty for taking paid vacations. This dedication to their jobs has made Japanese workers among the world’s most vacation-deprived and unhappy, with Japan ranking last in the 2016 Indeed Job Happiness Index among 35 countries surveyed.

Flexible Working Hours

One of the most common measures taken by SMEs in Japan to support work-life balance is flexible working hours. Many companies allow their employees to start and finish work at times that suit their circumstances as long as they meet their targets and responsibilities. This has become increasingly popular as many employees, particularly those with young children, need more flexibility in their work schedules.

Remote Work

Another trend in work-life balance support is remote work, where employees can work from home or other locations outside the office. This reduces commuting time and stress and enables employees to balance work and personal responsibilities more efficiently. According to a recent survey, around 60% of Japanese companies now allow remote work, up from just 30% a few years ago.

Paid Leave

Many SMEs in Japan also provide paid leave to support their employees’ work-life balance. This includes paid time off for family-related reasons, such as the birth of a child or caring for an elderly family member. Paid leave is not only beneficial for employees, but it also helps companies retain their workforce and increase productivity.

Childcare Support

Providing support for employees with young children is another important aspect of work-life balance. Many SMEs in Japan now offer on-site childcare facilities or provide subsidies for employees who use external childcare services. This supports employees and helps companies attract and retain female employees who may otherwise leave the workforce due to family responsibilities.

Investment in Employee Wellness

Many SMEs in Japan are also investing in their employees’ physical and mental wellness. This includes providing opportunities for exercise and sports and promoting mental health through initiatives such as counseling services. By supporting employee wellness, companies are not only helping their employees lead healthier lives, but they are also improving productivity and reducing absenteeism.

In Japan, small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are helping their employees balance their work and personal lives. This includes allowing flexible working hours, offering remote work options, providing paid leave, and investing in employee wellness. These efforts improve employees’ lives and make businesses more competitive and secure for the future.

"Otsumami" - a bite size snack:

An an employee, you can practice work-life balance by setting boundaries, prioritizing self-care, and utilizing flexible work options when available.*

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