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FRIDAY, June 09, 2023
Mental, physical strain growing among teleworking employees in Japan

Mental, physical strain growing among teleworking employees in Japan

FRIDAY, December 25, 2020

Telework has been welcomed as a flexible way to do one’s job anywhere and at any time, but an increasing number of remote workers are suffering from stress due to a lack of communication with others or difficulty distinguishing between work and private time.

How can mental and physical disorders related to teleworking, which has spread rapidly due to the coronavirus pandemic, be prevented?

Peacemind Inc., a human resources consulting company based in Tokyo, has been receiving an increasing number of inquiries about mental and physical problems caused by prolonged teleworking. One person said: “I feel depressed because I stay home all the time. I don’t feel like eating and I’ve lost weight.” Another said, “I can’t stop crying during work these days.”

According to Peacemind, in the early days after people began to refrain from commuting because of the spread of the virus, many people expressed confusion in their inquiries about working from home, or a fear of infection. From early August on, however, they began to talk about different issues.

Their problems are believed to have been caused by stress related to teleworking. People usually work on computers alone at home, and report their work or receive instructions mainly through email and social media. Unlike working at an office, it can be difficult to determine when to talk with their bosses. People began to feel pressured or anxious when work did not progress as a result of these factors.

“People communicate through casual conversation at an office. It’s important when teleworking to create opportunities to talk regularly to reduce anxiety or irritation,” said Hidehiko Takeda, a clinical psychologist at Peacemind.

According to a survey conducted in September on people in charge of corporate general affairs around the country by Gekkan Soumu Inc. — a Tokyo-based firm that publishes a magazine for corporate employees — 73.3% of 255 respondents said they found it difficult to provide mental care to teleworking staff.

“The biggest challenge of teleworking is that you can’t see each other’s faces. It’s necessary to consider how companies can visualize the situation and health condition of employees,” said Kenichi Toyoda, editor in chief of the Gekkan Soumu magazine.

Some companies are taking measures to prevent stress related to teleworking.

Nissin Foods Holdings Co. established a team in August to prevent depression linked to remote work. About 1,360 group company employees who work from home are asked to use a device that measures their stress levels, so problems can be dealt with even before they become aware of them.

Depending on the measurements, employees receive online interviews or are encouraged to participate in a program to improve the quality of their sleep, for example. 

“Stress can accumulate before you’re aware of it. I thought unsolicited help was necessary to prevent employees from suffering from stress,” said Yasuhisa Miura, deputy manager of Nissin Foods’ business administration office and a member of the team. The company is considering expanding the system throughout the entire group.