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Businesses revamp working styles to cope with prolonged state of emergency

  • May 8, 2020
  • , Nikkei , p. 2
  • JMH Translation

With the state of emergency extended, many large corporations continue to encourage their employees to telework. Manufacturing firms, however, are resuming operations while implementing measures to prevent infection such as putting distance between workers on factory floors. As it is difficult to predict when the pandemic will end, the companies are forced to reevaluate traditional ways of business and to adopt new working styles.


Companies such as Hitachi and Z Holdings will continue to have employees telework and prohibit them from going to the office. Toshiba is moving to enhance its internet communications environment for employees working from home. It has increased its capacity for simultaneous remote access from 5,000 people in mid-February to 60,000 in mid-April, enabling smooth and stable internet traffic, including teleconferencing and product designing. The company plans to further boost the capacity to 70,000. 


Some companies are mindful of the stress being felt by their employees due to prolonged teleworking. Unicharm will distribute 3,000 yen per month to all employees so that they can spend it on such occasions as an online happy hours. GMO Internet will share with its employees the savings it has earned from reduced utility and cafeteria expenses.


Meanwhile, manufacturers and construction companies are resuming operations after the Golden Week holidays. Mitsubishi Electric Corporation resumed most of its factory operations on May 7. Kajima Corporation, a major construction company, is asking workers to wear masks when traveling to construction sites. All employees will have their temperatures taken and recorded onsite. Morning all-hands meetings will be held in smaller groups, and smoking areas will be expanded or closed.


Anti-infection measures will be prioritized over efficiency at factories, which tend to be crowded with workers. Toyota Motor Corporation has made temperature screening and hand washing at the start of work mandatory for every worker at its domestic automobile plants. Factory workers are require to maintain a certain distance between themselves and others. In locations where they need to work in close vicinity, partitions have been installed to prevent droplets from spreading. Some workers need to wear face shields. The production pace will be slower in accordance with the current sluggish demand for automobiles.


Grocery stores, on the other hand, have been facing a labor shortage as they are exempt from requests for business closure under the emergency declaration. Aeon Group supermarkets will hire 100 employees of group companies that have been temporarily closed, such as movie theaters and game centers, who are willing to work at grocery stores. Yaoko, a large supermarket chain, has offered temporary jobs to regular employees of restaurant chains that are closed for now. (Abridged)

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