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Japan Work Style Post Covid

Japan Work Style Post Covid

4 months ago by Simon Jelfs

​2023 is flying by, it is hard to believe we are approaching the halfway point already.  In May 2023, Covid was downgraded to the same level as seasonal influenza, the trains are getting busier in the morning and the number of passengers not wearing masks is gradually increasing.

Covid wreaked havoc around the world but one huge positive is that it brought flexibility to the workplace in Japan.  

Work Style

The FocusCore Salary Survey 2023 showed us that 88% of respondents prefer either remote or hybrid work style and 2% prefer to work in a company office every working day of the week.

Download our 2023 Salary Guide here

I have heard about several foreign companies in Tokyo this year that decided to throw their Covid work style policy out the window and bring employees back to the office every day.  As a result, these companies have struggled with high levels of turnover (many of the leavers are parents) and now have a talent attraction challenge.  

Candidates these days ask us about work style in the same breath that they ask about salary so it is crucial for companies to be able to succinctly explain their work style policy and the reasons and benefits of it.  If there is a difference between how HR and leaders in other functions are describing their work style then potential employees can quickly pick up on it and lose interest in the business they are interviewing with.


Most employees we speak to want flexibility so that they can fit life around their work rather than have work dominate their life. This is especially true for parents.

I moved out to Tsukuba (40 miles north east of Tokyo) in 2010 and commuted daily to Tokyo until Covid.  I am grateful that I now have real flexibility with my work schedule and I choose to go to the office in Tokyo three times a week.  I prefer meeting candidates, clients and colleagues face to face to have more effective and authentic communication.  On the days I do go to Tokyo I am not rushing to get to the office by 9am.  I get a seat on the train and a chance to build into the day gently reading a book or catching up with the news.  I get to eat breakfast with my family and see my son off to school every day.  On work from home days, I am at home when my son comes home from school to hear how his day was and get him a snack.  I can help my wife out by ferrying my kids around to after school activities like rugby, ballet or juku.  I can cook weekday dinners for the family.  I am able to go to see my kids “observation lessons” at school.  All of these things make me more present in my family life and are a big benefit to the change that Covid brought to Japan.

Time in the Office

The reality is that most companies and employees recognize that being 100% in the office or 100% work from home is not ideal and soon becomes dull and ineffective.  If companies do decide to call back all their employees to the office full-time then it needs to be explained in the right way and should not be seen as just changing back to how things were before Covid.

So, what are the actual benefits to employees of working in the office?  

Based on the candidates, clients and colleagues I speak to here are a few:

More effective social interaction and team building

Clearer structure and routine

Physical separation between work and home - the commute allows you to decompress and separate the two

Access to resources (this could be a book in the library or it could be a manager or a senior who can give you more guidance and is more approachable face to face)

For any follow up questions or info on the Japan executive recruitment market please contact me on Linkedin or at