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Businesses Japan The Almighty Buck Technology

Panasonic Wants Employees To Relax, Limits Work Days To 11 hours (cnet.com) 153

Japan is notorious for its long working hours, which have been blamed for a national health crisis known as "karoshi" -- death from overwork. From a report on CNET: Panasonic hopes to curb this, instructing its 100,000-ish employees to work no later than 8 p.m. each day, reports Asahi Shimbun. This hour reduction still enables a 55-hour working week, but the directive from Panasonic President Kazuhiro Tsuga also limited overtime to 80 hours a month.
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Panasonic Wants Employees To Relax, Limits Work Days To 11 hours

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  • Only? (Score:5, Funny)

    by kuzb ( 724081 ) on Friday February 24, 2017 @11:03AM (#53923753)
    11 hours. What an improvement! This is like saying "we used to allow murder all week, but now we've limited it only to the weekends".
    • Re: Only? (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      To be fair that would be an significant improvement.

    • by Calydor ( 739835 )

      Have you ever heard the expression that Rome wasn't built in a day?

      Change doesn't come in leaps and bounds, it comes a single step at a time.

    • Re:Only? (Score:4, Funny)

      by SScorpio ( 595836 ) on Friday February 24, 2017 @12:14PM (#53924053)

      Bunch of slackers, not even working half days (12 hours).

      • Re:Only? (Score:5, Informative)

        by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Friday February 24, 2017 @01:21PM (#53924377)

        The Japanese put in a lot of hours, but not much of that is "working". Japan's productivity is only 60% of America's. There is a social taboo to leave work before your boss, so people stay late and surf the web. The bosses are promoted based on seniority rather than ability, and are often incompetent with no incentive to take the initiative on more enlightened working conditions. It is better to just stick to prevailing social conventions and keep a low profile.

        America: The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
        Japan: The nail that sticks up will be hammered back down.

        • Re:Only? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Friday February 24, 2017 @02:25PM (#53924719)

          The Japanese put in a lot of hours, but not much of that is "working". Japan's productivity is only 60% of America's.

          Productivity is a measure of output for a given workforce, not working time. Japan's problem isn't one of people surfing the web at work, it's arcane hierarchical structures getting in the way of getting things done.

          I remember working at one of our offices in Tokyo. Very simple task, we found a better way of doing something but to do that we needed another department to briefly do something for us:
          USA Approach: Walk over, knock on the door, "Can you quickly do this for us?", "Yeah sure", "Thanks"
          Japan Approach: Walk to your boss, sell the idea. He walks to his boss, sells the idea. His boss walks to his boss who oversees enough of the company that now the other department falls under him, he asks his way down the chain to see if it works. Eventually it gets to the bottom, person says "yeah sure". Up it goes again, over it goes again, yay we have approval. Walk over, knock on the door.

          No time to surf the web when your productivity suffers due to the horrendous inefficiencies of the workplace.

          • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            “The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.”

          • Re:Only? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Friday February 24, 2017 @03:53PM (#53925387)

            I worked for a Japanese-based company in the 80's.....oftentimes they made decisions by not doing anything. Eventually the issue "resolved itself" and that was that. If something required intervention from above it was seen as a bad thing or a personal failing, maybe even somewhat shameful.

            They were soooooooooo non-confrontational that just deciding where to go for lunch would be a multi-day process. We (they) eventually settled on 2 or 3 "favorite" places and they (we) would go to them in rotation.

            If I suggested a buffet or burger place they would act like I'd lost my mind or was trying to talk them into a sex change. Me and some of the other American guys used to do it just to see the shocked looks on their faces.

            "Yeah, I know it's Thursday (the 'Wada's Sushi Bar' day) but how about we go to Mad Mike's Burgers instead?"

            A frenzied, whispered conversation would take place between them in Japanese for a minute or two and then one would say, "Ah, perhaps. Yes maybe we could....but do you not like Wada's Sushi Bar? We think it is an excellent place." (you are going to disturb the harmonious fluidity of our well-established lunch routine)

            If we persisted then they would accede, but it always felt like we were forcing them to alter their well-worn lunch cycle and throwing the balance of the Universe out of whack.

            • Re:Only? (Score:5, Insightful)

              by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Friday February 24, 2017 @04:07PM (#53925505) Journal

              If we persisted then they would accede, but it always felt like we were forcing them to alter their well-worn lunch cycle and throwing the balance of the Universe out of whack.

              Because you were.
              What we call routine, they call ritual.

              Just hand someone from Japan your business card improperly*... if it's someone high enough then your boss and your boss's boss may have to bow in apology** for not teaching you correctly the protocol of etiquette. Of course then you get bitched at for it. (totally worth it, my boss was a dick and this was a beautifully PA opportunity to make him suffer).

              * Two hands, both corners of card pinched in index finger and thumb, card facing recipient, face up. Bow (30-60 deg, depending on your back, rank, etc.), look approx at recipients feet, present card.

              ** hold a 90 degree bow for 30 seconds.

              • Re:Only? (Score:5, Funny)

                by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Friday February 24, 2017 @06:56PM (#53926585)

                Because you were.
                What we call routine, they call ritual.

                Yes, I know. After almost a dozen years with them I'm well versed in the ins and outs of Japanese business/social protocol.

                Two hands, both corners of card pinched in index finger and thumb, card facing recipient, face up. Bow (30-60 deg, depending on your back, rank, etc.), look approx at recipients feet, present card. ** hold a 90 degree bow for 30 seconds.

                We did a much shorter "business bow", nowhere near 30 seconds, maybe a few seconds just to show deference. And nowhere near 90 degrees, it was a much less formal thing with us and they actually started copying us when we were in an informal setting.

                Because they were taught in English class that "too" and "very" are often interchangeable, many of them would shake your hand and say "Thank you too much!" lol

                They were some of the best people I ever worked with, period. The company backed us 100% and took care of us like you wouldn't believe.

                A client once complained *very* unfairly about me but my boss knew it was total bullshit. The client made noises about disciplining me and my boss told him not to worry, he would. He called me into his office and said, "I am disciplining you," and then he laughed and took me out to dinner at a great steak house in San Francisco.

                That client really didn't like Japanese people and he would ask that I come to his lab instead of one of the Japanese guys. My boss would always tell him in fake broken English that, "No, no I discipline him like you ask, he never get to come to your place again, don't worry!" And then he'd send one of the Japanese guys cuz he knew it made the client cranky, lol.

                • Good boss!

                  The 90 degree / 30 second thing was the "apology" bow for my cavalier attitude to the business card thing (which I knew damn well what I was doing lol).

                  • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

                    So what happens if you stop carrying your business cards and say refuse theirs, requesting they call your phone to transfer their details into your contact database.

                    • So what happens if you stop carrying your business cards and say refuse theirs, requesting they call your phone to transfer their details into your contact database.

                      They would label you as a white barbarian and have nothing but contempt for you from that moment on. I'm not kidding.

                      The whole business card thing is a very formal dance and they take it pretty seriously. Sure, you may do the phone thing later but the business card exchange is not just about exchanging business cards, trust me.

          • Productivity is calculated by dividing the units of output completed by hours of input. So yes Productivity is based on working time.

            You're obviously not a Project Manager nor work for a corporation because your example is pure bullshit. The simple fact is if you knocked on someone's door they would tell you in a polite way to fuck off while they finish their work. Because if they stop work on their project in order to help you they would fall behind. So your example is pure bullshit.
            • Depends on the corporation. In mine, the walk over and ask routine works pretty well.

            • Productivity is calculated by dividing the units of output completed by hours of input. So yes Productivity is based on working time.

              So please re-read my post to see why it is still completely consistent.

              You're obviously not a Project Manager nor work for a corporation because your example is pure bullshit. The simple fact is if you knocked on someone's door they would tell you in a polite way to fuck off while they finish their work. Because if they stop work on their project in order to help you they would fall behind. So your example is pure bullshit.

              Oh you sound like one of those special flowers who think they can work in isolation. Well that practice would get you very quickly let go from most of the places I work at, especially in multi-disciplinary groups that have to work together in my line of work. But it's good to know the past 15 years of my working life has been "bullshit". I didn't realise until you said so random internet citizen. Thank you for your insight into how other

              • X per person and X per hour are not the same thing, so why do you claim that's consistent?

                • Because my premise was that the person is actually working their full shift, not slacking away. Hence they are repeatable, one being nothing more than a function of the other. You say 10 hours. I say 1 FTE.

          • Productivity is a measure of output for a given workforce, not working time. Japan's problem isn't one of people surfing the web at work, it's arcane hierarchical structures getting in the way of getting things done.

            That's a very optimistic view of american "productivity" based on anecdotal evidence. The reality is that while there are a few places where american workers are actually rewarded for getting things done, most of them are rewarded based on time worked.

            Most software shops I've worked in have been spending the vast majority of their workers' time on servicing technical debt, while promoting the people whose primary contribution was that debt.

        • by Ogive17 ( 691899 )
          Americans (and other developed countries): Work to Live

          Japanese: Live to Work

          My wife is Japanese, she got home from a business trip to Japan last Sunday after traveling and working the previous weekend as well (14 days straight of working or traveling for work). When I asked her if she was going to take Monday off, she told me no.

          I just rolled my eyes.

          She did end up staying home but didn't make that decision until it was actually time to leave for work. I know some people love their jobs (she d
        • by chihowa ( 366380 )

          Even in America, the squeaky wheel may get the grease, but it's also the first to be replaced.

        • Re:Only? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Friday February 24, 2017 @05:01PM (#53925899) Homepage

          The Japanese put in a lot of hours, but not much of that is "working". Japan's productivity is only 60% of America's. There is a social taboo to leave work before your boss, so people stay late and surf the web. The bosses are promoted based on seniority rather than ability, and are often incompetent with no incentive to take the initiative on more enlightened working conditions. It is better to just stick to prevailing social conventions and keep a low profile.

          America: The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Japan: The nail that sticks up will be hammered back down.

          I have worked in Japanese companies for almost 8 years in total, 7 months of which was in Japan. Everything in your post is true except "so people stay late and surf the web". This is not my experience. In my experience, people stay late and do NOT surf the web. The open floor plan in most Japanese offices [google.com] makes goofing off unnoticed nearly impossible.

          Some people are doing productive work, but slowly. Others were doing unproductive work (again, slowly). Others take frequent visits to other people in different departments. Meetings which require 2-3 people but 8 people are invited also help run up the man hours. Surfing the web for non-work reasons was strictly during lunch hours and breaks, I never saw it.

        • but a large part of any economy is going to be construction, maintenance/repair, cooking, cleaning, etc. Those folks are probably not surfing the web. And I'll remind you the fellow who touched all this off by dying from overwork was a cook in a steak house.
          • Death by overwork is so common in Japan that they even have a name for it.

            If Matshita Corporation _really_ wanted to make a positive change they'd put in a rule which held managers responsible for holding employees in if they work late.

            Management _can_ tell people to go home at the end of the day and if that's what it takes to solve the issue, they should.

            Having the corporate structure encourage it would go a long way to solving this problem - as many others have mentioned, the stupidly long hours and requi

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's still better than what a heck of a lot of companies do. Ever heard of "Seattle hundreds?" It's a common term in the Seattle area, and I've seen it in email a couple of times from friends that live in the Bay Area. It is 16 hours a day Monday through Thursday then 12 hours a day Friday through Sunday. Where I work now in Bellevue (between Seattle and Redmond and used to be the home of Microsoft), I've had at least one team on required hundreds since mid-March 2007. It really sucks for me because I

      • Hogwash. There is no way that employees would put up with that crap in today's economy. I notice that you don't actually name the company, which is a good idea when you are making up BS. Unemployment in the Seattle area is below 4%, and tech unemployment is around 2%. Every company in the area is desperate for talent, so these workers could quit and walk across the street for a new job. I might tolerate 100 hour weeks for a few years if I was getting paid $300k, but no sane company would pay that when

  • by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Friday February 24, 2017 @11:06AM (#53923767)

    Just because overtime won't be paid beyond 80 hours a month doesn't mean that people won't work it for social standing.

    The ban on work beyond 8pm might be somewhat more effective, and less self-serving at the corporate financial level.

    Sadly, if these people have been working 60+ hours a week for years, work is their life - send them home and they'll get depressed, fight with their families, and otherwise have to find some meaning to their life outside the company.

    • by gnick ( 1211984 )

      Sadly, if these people have been working 60+ hours a week for years, work is their life - send them home and they'll get depressed, fight with their families, and otherwise have to find some meaning to their life outside the company.

      I don't disagree BUT:
      Depression is treatable and, if it's a result of a lifestyle change, temporary.
      Fights with family are typically resolved and are part of forming family bonds.
      As for finding meaning to life outside the company, I'm not sure any exists but the opportunity to quest for it should be available to everyone on the planet.

      • Sadly, if these people have been working 60+ hours a week for years, work is their life - send them home and they'll get depressed, fight with their families, and otherwise have to find some meaning to their life outside the company.

        I don't disagree BUT:
        Depression is treatable and, if it's a result of a lifestyle change, temporary.
        Fights with family are typically resolved and are part of forming family bonds.
        As for finding meaning to life outside the company, I'm not sure any exists but the opportunity to quest for it should be available to everyone on the planet.

        I agree on all points, but simply point out that these kinds of transitions will bring their own tragedies, suicides, etc. All in all, people who are permitted opportunity to quest for meaning in their own ways do seem to form more attractive societies (I'm thinking of East vs West Germany in 1990 now, but the pattern repeats in many different places and times.)

      • by TWX ( 665546 )
        I've known a couple of people that worked inordinate hours as a reaction to their home life and not wanting to be there.

        Unfortunately these people were themselves part of the problem. They tended to be unhappy at work too, and to spread this around the workplace generally.
        • I've worked with a couple of these office dwellers, post divorce, messy situation with the kids, works 70 hours a week and still can't seem to do what people need them to do.

    • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
      Yeah. You can change company regulations and even laws, but there is a cultural interia in Japan about working hours. It would take a concerted effort over more than one generation to change it.
      • How about locking the offices after working hours are over? Where I work the janitor gets pissed if I don't leave before 8:00pm since he needs to lock up the building.
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Friday February 24, 2017 @11:09AM (#53923779) Homepage
    japanese: 11 hours!? ill never get anything done and my wife wont let me come home after less than 16 hours you insensitive clods!!
    Americans: 11 hours...so...thats an entire 11 hour shift at just one job? not 5 jobs?
    French: ....
    Americans: someone call an ambulance, the french guy just dropped dead after reading the title.
    dead japanese man: how shameful. ive been dead for 5 months and still manage to get to work on time. stop making excuses for yourself.
  • Well. I guess enough people have died for them to take notice. and "taper back" on the whip cracking.
    • Sick thing it, it's not so much whip cracking as it is peer pressure and coopetition - sure, we're all on the same team, but see how hard I'm pulling - no, I can pull harder I will get that next promotion instead of you, etc.

      • I have been whipped as an electronic technician since 1980, In fact the late 1970's were not a walk in the park either. The field of electronics has always been cruel to workers. It took till 2004 for the perverted abuse to spread to the rest of the work fields. Now even office workers realize what we've been going though. I think around the late 1990's was when they started to crap on IT support.. Additionally, the 1960's and 70's was an extremely rough time on engineers.
        • I think a lot of it has to do with company size. In big companies you can choose to work hard, but to an extent, you can take the Wally (from Dilbert) approach, too. In small companies, Wally just doesn't cut it because the small companies are literally fighting for their lives too much of the time.

  • Japan work place face time rules force people to work late.

    But if the 2020 olympics get rid of the last train then that hard limit will be gone.

  • by Dorianny ( 1847922 ) on Friday February 24, 2017 @11:18AM (#53923835) Journal
    Humans can be alert and productive for only so many hours a day, differs by person but it is definitely even less then 8 for most everyone. After that something that would take 1 hours in the morning will instead take 4 hours of overtime. Of course you will not be able to get anything done in a hour in the morning either because all that overtime means that you will not get enough rest. If you are a security guard, simply being there is good enough but if your work involves higher thought processes then quality beats quantity when it come to overall productivity. Something which is unfortunately lost in today's Corporate culture where the most valued personal is often the people responding to emails at 1am, no matter what gibberish
    • by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Friday February 24, 2017 @11:21AM (#53923851)

      Depends not only on the person, but also the task. Implementing complex algorithms efficiently in code tends to require more attention and focus than sitting in hours long meetings listening for the occasional cue to speak for 30 seconds.

      • by arth1 ( 260657 )

        Depends not only on the person, but also the task. Implementing complex algorithms efficiently in code tends to require more attention and focus than sitting in hours long meetings listening for the occasional cue to speak for 30 seconds.

        The latter is, without doubt, the most tiring.

        When I've accomplished something at work, I come home far more alert than when it's spent on politics and communications.

      • *participating* in meetings or chairing workshops etc, productively are just as exhausting a codemonkey work

    • There was an experiment recently conducted in Sweden, with many workplaces in different sectors taking part, I think it was a whole city. They switched to a 30-hour week, retaining full pay. The bottom line, as far as I remember, was that productivity was, if anything, increased.

      Given how decision makers think, I have no hopes for things to change because of that, though. It's already telling how little publicity the study got.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The bottom line was they ended up cancelling/not rolling out the program because they had to hire more people but didn't have the budget to keep paying them. I.e. they did not improve productivity PER $ spent.In other words, the people may have been slightly more productive for each hour they actually worked but they were not more productive than when they worked 40 hours but they kept the same pay so total cost to do the same amount of work increased.

        Your bias must have just made you "make up" the conclusi

      • by clodney ( 778910 )

        I'm too lazy to look for the cite, but I have read in the past that in the short term virtually any change you make is good and results in a productivity improvement. Then the novelty wears off and you go back to the old baseline. So people may be motivated to work harder or try to get more done in a 30 hour week initially, but that effect tends to wear off once it becomes the new normal.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Humans can be alert and productive for only so many hours a day, differs by person but it is definitely even less then 8 for most everyone. After that something that would take 1 hours in the morning will instead take 4 hours of overtime.

      The question is what people could do and people would do. I've had six hour exams and they were killers, same if you watch top chess players after a typical match of ~5 hours so if you're giving it your everything then clearly you don't last eight hours. Do you think people would become super effective if they only worked six hours a day though? Do you think they'll just zone out and mentally recover for the rest of the day? Not just like one day, but every working day? I can't speak for everyone else but I

    • Humans can be alert and productive for only so many hours a day, differs by person but it is definitely even less then 8 for most everyone.

      I would say from past experience that is not right, you can indeed be alert and productive for far longer than eight hours. I would say its more like 16 and some people can go beyond that.

      You can even do a number of very long days in a row and stay alert and truly productive... past a week or so you start to hit a wall and lose overall productivity. But not to such a p

  • My employment contracts for the last decade has prevented me from working more than 40 hours a week. None of the Fortune 500 companies I've worked for wanted to pay overtime for IT support.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Really? That is interesting. I thought most of them just cheated the system and made you exempt (even though you supposedly have to have either management tasks, significant decision making authority about how to do your job, or be a recognized professional - which IT isn't).
      • I thought most of them just cheated the system and made you exempt (even though you supposedly have to have either management tasks, significant decision making authority about how to do your job, or be a recognized professional - which IT isn't).

        Not for contractors who work through a contracting agency.

    • ...But they sure try to call you after hours for "just one thing."

      The correct answer is "No, unless overtime is authorized in writing prior to my starting any work, and that includes answering questions on this phone call."

      • ...But they sure try to call you after hours for "just one thing."

        No one has ever called me after hours in 20+ years of my technical career.

  • I work to live not live to work!!!
  • Only work 8 hours LOL. There are a lot of 12 hour shifts...some 24 hour like fire/ems, granted they aren't busy all the time, but 8-10 hours is usually enough for most people, without driving them insane.
  • i see posters everywhere in the past weeks on the next vigil at the "Ijzer" ... battlefield where a lot of flemish died in the mud
    twice
    cos they're retarded , for some king or shit ... roughly translated, sayin "on own power to flemish power", a separatist slogan , now
    try selling these people here LOOOOOOoooool , working days of only eleven hours
    probably hard to follow my lol here since you're not from here in the middle of here not fitting in here
    but thats hilarious , saying it like that
    • akshully, and pardon my impulsive doublepostness in repying to myself
      the irony of that vigil is that all those suckers who bled out holding their bowels in the mud like twice, from the choking on mustard to whatever and theres like this huge tower built that says "nie wieder"
      as in "never again"
      died there fighting the germans and are like ALL inclined to the far right
      that history as seen in school for y'all then, welcome to hellgium
  • "Panasonic Wants Employees To Relax, Limits Work Days To 11 hours"

    Lol, I'm way ahead of them, my employer would be lucky if I put in 6 hours a day.

    I reckon Panasonic will catch up to me sometime in 2052 or so.

  • I'll believe this "limit" the first time a corporate boss is demoted or removed for violating the rules

panic: kernel trap (ignored)

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