Remote harassment: Japan debating guidelines on working from home

What impact is remote work having on our health? What does it mean for our relationships with bosses? And do we all have to return to the office eventually, even if we prefer it at home?

The pandemic has led to numerous questions about how we work, and among the countries intensely debating the benefits of remote working is Japan, which is calling on employees to stay home even after lifting its state of emergency.

The world’s third-largest economy has begun to notice that, while remote working also brings freedoms to employees, it also brings with it a risk of harassment, often in unfamiliar forms.

Being frequently contacted by a boss who doubts whether employees are actually working at home can, for example, create an atmosphere of constant surveillance, according to specialists recently cited by the leading Japanese business daily Nikkei.

Written instructions by email can meanwhile also be perceived as a having harsh, commanding tone.

Video conferences from home can also bring with them a fear that your superiors and colleagues will somehow enter into your personal space.

Addressing what they called “remote harassment” of employees, workplace psychology experts in Japan are thus calling for clear rules of conduct in a work-from-home context.

They’re not the only ones. Management specialists, corporate communication platforms and other voices in business communities in several countries have underlined that harassment can hit employees in a home working environment.

As it emerges from a state of emergency, Japan’s government now wants to promote working from home while pushing ahead with the development of its digital infrastructure and the changes to corporate culture this brings.

Despite its reputation as a high-tech country, Japan lags far behind other countries in terms of digitisation.

Countless Japanese employees have had to continue working in offices during the state of emergency, partly because Japan’s administrative regulations require documents to bear a “hanko” (stamp).

Economists now say the world’s third-biggest economy is better placed for recovery than other countries that imposed stricter lockdowns.

After lifting its state of emergency in late May, Japan is now ending restrictions for businesses, travel and large events in stages after reviews every three weeks over the coming months.

However, the prime minister has called upon the population to work from home where possible amid the risk of a second wave of infections. – dpa

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