Dear Japanese Companies, Please Work From Home

This is a letter urging Japanese companies to allow their workers to work from home. Please feel free to use it.

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About 2 weeks ago (long before the spike in COVID-19 cases in Tokyo) my company switched to a 100% mandatory work from home policy. Being an international company, I’m happy to say that they got on this as early as they could and are doing their best to protect the health of their employees. However, my girlfriend works for a traditional Japanese company and they do things much differently.

As the cases continued to spike around the world and thousands of people continued to die, everyday my girlfriend would leave in the morning and get on a crowded Tokyo train. She would commute to her office and do work on a computer from her desk, and conduct meetings with her colleagues in person.

This infuriated me.

I even thought about asking her to quit her job. We couldn’t live a fancy life, but I could support us on my salary until things calmed down. However, I knew she would never say yes to that.

I knew that no one in her department would speak up and request to work from home, because if people in power (managers) were working from the office, there is no way regular office workers would feel comfortable working from home. There are office politics in Japanese companies and Southeast Asian companies that are unlike anywhere else in the world.

What did I do?

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I decided to write an anonymous letter addressed to the company and send it to every customer service and management email I could find on the company’s website. However, my Japanese is nowhere near good enough to write a convincing letter. I wrote the letter in English and had it professionally translated into Japanese.

This is what the letter said:

Dear [Japanese company name],

The most important person in my life works for you and everyday you make her from your office, you needlessly risk her life. 

There is a reason why large companies in Japan like Google and Bridgestone have enforced a 100% work from home policy, and that reason is COVID-19. Despite what some people in Japan may think, the Coronavirus is far from over. The governor of Tokyo even urged people to stay home to help prevent future deaths. 

If this is serious enough that the government is asking people to stay home on the weekend, why are you asking you employees to commute on crowded trains 5 out of 7 days in the week? In Italy, a country with an aging population like Japan, the mortality rate is over 10%. Would you take a 1/10 chance of your loved one dying, just so they could work in your office? (even though the majority of your work and meetings could be done online). 

In Japan, the mortality rate is around 2-3%. Personally when I think about the love of my life, even a 1% chance of death is too high a risk to take. I hope that you can look at the people you love and ask yourself if you are willing to take that risk for them. If the answer is no, please don’t risk the life of the person I love either. 

Please make it mandatory for your staff to work from home. Don’t urge them. Don’t “highly suggest” they work from home. Close your office and move all your workflows online. 

Don’t use the excuse that you allow and urge your employees to work from home, and it is their choice. You know that your employees will not work from home unless they are forced too. The Japanese take their work seriously, and if no one in power (managers) is working from home, no regular workers will work from home either. We live in a technological age of instant video calls and file sharing. There is no need for the majority of your workers to commute to the office. 

Please make the right decision and keep your employees safe. Companies can bounce back from a recession, but over 30,000 people will never bounce back from the Coronavirus. 

I’m begging you. Don’t wait until one of your employees dies. Due your duty as their employer and protect them.


Here is the letter in Japanese:

[日本の会社の経営者の方へ] 

私の人生で最も大事な人があなたのために働いており、あなたが毎日彼女をオフィスで働かせるたびに、あなたは不必要に彼女の命を危険にさらしています。

グーグルやブリジストンなどの日本の大企業が100%在宅勤務の方針を実施しているのには理由があります。その理由とはCOVID-19です。一部の日本人そう思っていないかもしれませんんが、新型コロナウイルスは終息にほど遠い状態です。事態は深刻で、これ以上死者を増やさないように東京都知事が在宅勤務を要請するほどの状況になっています。

政府が週末の外出の自粛を要請するほど事態が深刻なのに、なぜあなたは週5日満員電車で通勤することを従業員に要求しているのですか?日本のように高齢化が進んでいるイタリアでは死亡率が10%を超えています。あなたは、従業員を会社で勤務させるだけのために、10分の1の確率で愛する人が死ぬリスクを負いますか?(しかも、あなたの会社の仕事や会議の大半はオンラインでできるというのに)

日本では、死亡率が2~3%です。私の生涯の恋人のこととなれば、たとえ1%の死亡率でも私にとってはリスクが高すぎます。あたも自分の愛する人々のことを考えて、その人たちに進んでリスクを負わせたいかどうか、ぜひ自問していただきたい。その答えがノーであるのなら、私の愛する人の命も危険にさらさないでいただきたい。

社員に在宅勤務を義務付けてください。要請するのではダメです。在宅勤務を「強く促す」のでもダメです。オフィスを閉鎖し、すべての業務をオンラインに移行してください。

従業員に在宅勤務を許可しているし、要請もしていること、在宅勤務するかどうかは従業員の選択にかかっていることを言い訳にしないでください。あなたの会社の従業員が強制されない限り在宅勤務をしないことぐらい、よくご存じでしょう。日本人は仕事に対して真面目です。権力の座にある人々(上司たち)が誰も在宅勤務していなかったら、在宅勤務する正社員は一人もいないでしょう。私たちは簡単にテレビ電話をでき、ファイル共有をできるテクノロジー時代に生きています。従業員の大半は会社に通勤する必要がありません。

どうか正しい決断を下し、従業員の安全を守ってください。会社は景気後退から回復できますが、3万人を超える人々には新型コロナウイルスから回復するチャンスがないのです。

お願いです。従業員の誰かが亡くなるまで決断を先延ばしにしないでください。雇用主としての義務を果たし、従業員を守ってください。


What happened in the end?

The day that I was going to send it, my girlfriend told me that her company finally decided to implement a work from home policy. Thank God for that. I am happy that her company smartened up and that I didn’t need to send this letter. But instead of wasting this letter that I had translated, I thought I’d make this letter available to anyone who was in a similar situation.

Please feel free to use this letter and adjust it as you see fit. Make sure to replace the name in the first line to the name of the company you are addressing (it is set to a generic address line).

Most importantly, please stay home and stay safe everyone.

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