Japanese offices struggle to adapt to social distancing

IN 57AD a Chinese emperor, Guangwu, gave an envoy from the kingdom of Wa, as Japan was then known, a solid gold seal, with a handle in the form of a coiled serpent. Such seals, or hanko, are still commonly used in Japan in place of signatures on official documents and contracts. During the covid-19 pandemic, with many workers forced to defy social-distancing guidelines and trudge to their offices to put ink to paper, the hanko captures corporate Japan’s struggle to modernise its anachronistic workplace culture.

Despite its reputation for hi-tech wizardry, Japan can be stubbornly analogue. When the pandemic hit, only 40% of Japanese firms had used digitised contracts at all and just 30% had systems in place to enable remote working. Faxes remain ubiquitous; in many prefectures, doctors have been faxing coronavirus test results to public-health officials.

The pandemic has also exposed Japan Inc’s unusually heavy reliance on face-to-face communication. Meeting clients or business partners in person is de rigueur. The Japanese style of collective decision-making depends on people huddling in a room together. Salarymen and women put in long days in the office to demonstrate their dedication to their company and colleagues—and then late nights of sake-fuelled carousing to...

via Business Feeds

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