Japan’s new work shift: fewer days, less commuting, longer hours

Technology group Toshiba will begin a four-day workweek in June for employees on the plant floor, giving them one more day in exchange for longer hours while on site, maintaining the annual work hours.

It is part of a broader effort to help contain the spread of the coronavirus by shrinking the number of people coming to work and reducing the exposure to risk through less commuting.

Semiconductor manufacturer Renesas Electronics will also introduce a four-day workweek, signaling that the prospects for a long-term battle with the pandemic are forcing companies to reassess their work habits.

Of the Toshiba group’s roughly 76,000 employees, its about 10,000 factory workers will switch to a four-day workweek. Teleworking is not an option for manufacturing employees who need to staff production lines. Instead, they will work longer hours while on site and take extra days off.

They will be granted full pay as long as they work roughly 160 hours per month.

Also to reduce commuting for clerical staff, the sales force and engineers, Toshiba will introduce a complete flextime schedule.

Engineers, who handle large volumes of design data, in particular, cannot complete their tasks via telework alone. The new system will allow them to come to office fewer times by dropping core work hour requirements.

Toshiba suspended operations at domestic locations from April 20 until Wednesday by moving up summer holidays for an extended Japanese Golden Week break. When operations resume Thursday, the company will expand work-from-home shifts and staggered office hours.

Renesas Electronics will authorize four-day workweeks on a rotating basis from May 11 until the end of June. The schedule applies to about 5,000 employees, or just over one-quarter of the workforce, excluding factory workers.

The extra day off will be considered leave time, meaning employees will receive over 80% of their pay. Production lines will operate at normal capacity because it takes time to restart clean rooms and other equipment.

Nissan Motor granted temporary leave to 15,000 regular and contract workers at its Yokohama headquarters and elsewhere during the week of April 27.

When the Golden Week break ends May 11, staff typically will work from home.