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Satisfactory Work-Life Balance? Insights from business professionals in Japan

Satisfactory Work-Life Balance? Insights from business professionals in Japan

7 months ago by Maribeth Mockovak

Working in the consulting industry in Japan, I am privileged to interact with a diverse group of talented business professionals from within leading industries including transportation, luxury, retail, manufacturing, automotive, hospitality, and airlines.

A developing world can provide a plethora of opportunities and growth. But often times, a fast-paced working environment with very demanding expectations can consequently lead to detrimental imbalances between one’s career and personal life.

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According to my research, many employees are satisfied with their current work-life balance. The increase of hybrid or full remote work-style since COVID may have positively affected the work-life balance today, however some still consider their situation to be unsatisfactory when it comes to their current work hours and work schedule.

As I gathered more details regarding work and personal situation, I found interesting responses—

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When it comes to priorities, personal life, family, and sleep over work are of utmost importance. There are a few, however, that consider their job to be most important.

While personal life seems to be prioritized over work, it was interesting to find that more than half of the respondents answered that they had to miss a personal event due to work.

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There were also a few that reported having to always work on the weekend and during vacation time. Some revealed that they had to miss out on quality time with their family, friends due to pressure from work. More than a quarter responded having to always check their emails after leaving their office/ work. And some often had to take work home. It seems some personal sacrifices are made for longer work commitments.

While the majority of respondents work less than 40 - 45 hours per week on average, more than half answered working more than 45 hours, with a shocking 14.3% that work more than 60 hours!

Aside from overtime, one’s commuting time can impact. The majority of respondents reported that they commute between half to an hour roundtrip for work. There are also those that have to travel for more than 2 hours roundtrip.

Work hours coupled with commuting time not only takes over the majority of one’s daily life, it seems to also negatively impact the amount of proper sleep one has.

From my research, I found that a staggering 19% of the respondents only get less than 5 hours of sleep, and a further third report only 5-6 hours!

A decent amount of sleep is around 7-9 hours per night on average for most adults for healthy brain function and maintaining physical health. Inadequate sleep can raise chronic health problems, in addition to negatively impacting one’s quality performance at work.

Work is important. It pays the bills, it supports one’s daily lifestyle and family-- nearly 75% of the respondents have three family members, with nearly half having more than three. However, work can also be very taxing when stress arises from demanding, difficult to manage jobs.

All the respondents agreed that they could benefit from having a better work-life balance. It would not only improve their personal well being, but also enhance their performance at work and positively impact their organization in a more effective and successful manner.

For better work-life balance, the majority of the respondents reported that exercise has helped them to manage their stress. Other methods included entertainment, simply going to the library to read books, or having time with family and friends. 

A range of beneficial work-related adjustments includes flexible starting and finishing time, sharing job tasks with others, holidays and paid time offs, time off for family engagement, and opportunities for career break or sabbaticals.  

When asked what companies can do to foster better employee work-life balance, most respondents answeredmore work from home, longer remote work period, or full remote.A variety of feedback also presented: 

Work from anywhere, Flex workplace/ hours, Freedom and flexibility to work for 40 hours a week at any time based on business and family needs, Irregular days-off (when workload is low), No check-in/ check-out policy, Vacation flexibility, Freedom of taking leave when necessary, Workload balance, Labor force that fits current operations, Hiring more employees, Fair resources to team,Benefits and Welfare, Commuting solution, Investments (equipment, personnel), Paid Post Grad Education, Maintenance of work rules, Decrease paperworks

While an ongoing process, organizational initiatives can promote maintaining a reasonable work-life balance by identifying the causes of stress and considering implementing the actions or adjustments, such as from the feedback above.