Panasonic is the latest Japanese company to break with Japan's workaholic culture and offer a 4-day workweek

·2 min read
A businessman checks his phone as he walks along the pavement in Tokyo's Ginza district.
Japan is known for its intense corporate culture.Charly Triballeau/AFP
  • Corporate life in Japan can be so intense that dying from overwork is not unheard of.

  • Last year, the government recommended that companies allow staff to opt for a four-day workweek.

  • Panasonic recently announced it will start offering the four-day workweek to interested workers.

The electronics conglomerate Panasonic is the latest major Japanese company to announce a four-day workweek to interested employees, Nikkei reported.

"We must support the well-being of our employees," Panasonic CEO Yuki Kusumi told investors at a recent briefing, according to the outlet.

Known for its intense work culture, corporate life in Japan can be so unforgiving that dying from overworking is not unheard of.

In a bid to improve the country's work-life balance, the Japanese government last June recommended that companies allow staff members to opt for a four-day workweek, the German broadcaster DW reported.

Panasonic's Kusumi said the company was looking to support diversity as some workers might have side jobs or personal interests apart from their primary employment, according to the public broadcaster NHK.

The company is also moving toward more flexible work arrangements. This includes encouraging more employees to work remotely and allowing workers to decide whether they want to transfer to another city without their families — a common corporate practice in the country, the NHK reported.

Panasonic joins a handful of Japanese companies introducing four-day workweek arrangements, including the pharmaceutical firm Shionogi and the systems developer Encourage Technologies. Both plan to offer the option starting in April, per Nikkei.

About 8% of Japanese companies offered more than two days off a week in 2020, Nikkei reported, citing an official survey.

In the US, the four-day workweek has been floated for decades but remains out of reach for many workers, Insider's Chris Weller wrote in November.

But this could be changing as the coronavirus pandemic accelerates competition for talent, Jackie Reinberg, a senior director at Willis Towers Watson, told Weller.

Last week, the e-commerce startup Bolt permanently switched to a four-day workweek after a trial saw improved productivity and work-life balance.

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